Utah v. Evans,
536 U.S. 452 (2002)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case





No. 01-714. Argued March 27, 2002-Decided June 20, 2002

The Census Bureau derives most census information from forms it mails to a nationwide list of addresses. If no one replies to a particular form or the information supplied is confusing, contradictory, or incomplete, the Bureau follows up with visits by its field personnel. Occasionally, despite the visits, the Bureau may still have conflicting indications about, e. g., whether a listed address is a housing unit, office building, or vacant lot, whether a residence is vacant or occupied, or the number of persons in a unit. The Bureau may then use a methodology called "imputation," by which it infers that the address or unit about which it is uncertain has the same population characteristics as those of its geographically closest neighbor of the same type (i. e., apartment or single-family dwelling) that did not return a form. In the year 2000 census, the Bureau used "hot-deck imputation" to increase the total population count by about 0.4%. But because this small percentage was spread unevenly across the country, it made a difference in the apportionment of congressional Representatives. In particular, imputation increased North Carolina's population by 0.4% while increasing Utah's by only 0.2%, so that North Carolina will receive one more Representative and Utah one less than if the Bureau had simply filled relevant informational gaps by counting the related number of individuals as zero. Utah brought this suit against appellees, the officials charged with conducting the census, claiming that the Bureau's use of "hot-deck imputation" violates 13 U. S. C. § 195, which prohibits use of "the statistical method known as 'sampling,'" and is inconsistent with the Constitution's statement that an "actual Enumeration shall be made," Art. I, § 2, cl. 3. Utah sought an injunction compelling appellees to change the official census results. North Carolina intervened. The District Court found for the Bureau.


1. The Court rejects North Carolina's argument that Utah lacks standing because this action is not a "Case" or "Controversy," Art. III, § 2, in that the federal courts do not have the power to "redress" the "injury" that appellees allegedly "caused" Utah, e. g., Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U. S. 555, 561. Because there is no significant dif-


ference between Utah and the plaintiff in Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U. S. 788, in which the Court rejected a similar standing argument, North Carolina must convince the Court that it should reconsider Franklin. It has not done so. It argues that ordering appellees to recalculate the census numbers and recertify the official result cannot help Utah because North Carolina is "entitled" to the number of Representatives already certified to it under the statutes that require a decennial census, 13 U. S. C. § 141(a); mandate that the results be reported to the President, § 141(b); obligate the President to send Congress a statement showing the number of Representatives to which each State is "entitled" by the census data, 2 U. S. C. § 2a(a); and specify that the House must then send each State a certificate of the number of Representatives to which it is "entitled." The statutes also say that once all that is done, each State "shall be entitled" to the number of Representatives the "certificate" specifies. § 2a(b). Unlike North Carolina, the Court does not read these statutes as absolutely barring a certificate's revision in all cases. The statutes do not expressly address what is to occur in the case of a serious mistake-say, a clerical, mathematical, or calculation error in census data or in its transposition. Guided by Franklin, which found standing despite §2a's presence, the Court reads the statute as permitting certificate revision in such cases of error, including cases of court-determined legal error leading to a court-required revision of the underlying census report. So read, the statute poses no legal bar to "redress." Nor does Pub. L. 105-119, Title II, §209(b), 111 Stat. 2481, which entitles "[a]ny person aggrieved by the use of any [unlawful] statistical method" to bring "a civil action" for declaratory or injunctive "relief against the use of such method." Despite North Carolina's argument that this statute implicitly forbids a suit after the census' conclusion, the statute does not say that and does not explain why Congress would wish to deprive of its day in court a State that did not learn of a counting method's representational consequences until after the census' completion-and hence had little, if any, incentive to bring a precensus action. The Court reads limitations on its jurisdiction narrowly, see, e. g., Webster v. Doe, 486 U. S. 592, 603, and will not read into a statute an unexpressed congressional intent to bar jurisdiction the Court has previously exercised, e. g., Franklin, supra. Because neither statute poses an absolute legal barrier to relief, it is likely that Utah's victory here would bring about the ultimate relief it seeks. See id., at 803. Thus, Utah has standing. Pp. 459-464.

2. The Bureau's use of "hot-deck imputation" does not violate 13 U. S. C. § 195, which "authorize[s] the use of the statistical method known as 'sampling,'" "[e]xcept for the determination of population for purposes of apportionment of Representatives." Bureau imputation in

Full Text of Opinion

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.