Don Nguyen, AP US Gov, Court Case #56. Shaw v. Reno (1993

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Don Nguyen, AP US Gov, Court Case #56.
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
Chief Justice: William Rehnquist (1986-2005)
Issue/Topic
Equal Protection (Fourteenth Amendment)
II. Historical Background and the Facts of the Case
 The U.S. Attorney General rejected a North Carolina congressional reapportionment plan
because the plan created only one black-majority district. North Carolina submitted a
second plan creating two black-majority districts. One of these districts was, in parts, no
wider than the interstate road along which it stretched. Five North Carolina residents
challenged the constitutionality of this unusually shaped district, alleging that its only
purpose was to secure the election of additional black representatives. After a three-judge
District Court ruled that they failed to state a constitutional claim, the residents appealed
and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
III. Issue
 Whether the Appellants have stated an equal protection claim by alleging that the General
Assembly adopted a reapportionment plan so irrational on its face that it can only be
viewed as an effort to segregate races for the purposes of voting, without regard for
traditional districting principles and without sufficiently compelling justification?
IV. Argument
 Appellants have not presented a cognizable claim because they have not alleged a
cognizable injury.
Appellants have not presented a cognizable claim because they have not alleged a
cognizable injury. The case in which the majority chooses to abandon settled law and
recognize for the first time this “analytically distinct” constitutional claim, is a challenge
by white voters to the plan under which North Carolina has sent black representatives to
Congress for the first time since Reconstruction.
Appellants have not presented a cognizable claim because they have not alleged a
cognizable injury. However, the shape of the second district is so bizarre that it must have
been drawn for the purpose of advantaging or disadvantaging a cognizable group of
voters. Additionally, regardless of that shape, it was drawn for the purposes of facilitating
the election of black representatives from North Carolina.
Exacting scrutiny of racial gerrymanders under the Fourteenth Amendment is
inappropriate because reapportionment “nearly always requires some consideration of
race for legitimate reasons.” The racial gerrymandering here is a “benign” racial
discrimination that should have relaxed judicial review.
 Opinion: The Equal Protection Clause should protect to those who are discriminated
against.
V. Decision
 Yes. The Court held that although North Carolina's reapportionment plan was racially
neutral on its face, the resulting district shape was bizarre enough to suggest that it
constituted an effort to separate voters into different districts based on race. The unusual
district, while perhaps created by noble intentions, seemed to exceed what was
reasonably necessary to avoid racial imbalances. After concluding that the residents'
claim did give rise to an equal protection challenge, the Court remanded - adding that in
the absence of contradictory evidence, the District Court would have to decide whether or
not some compelling governmental interest justified North Carolina's plan.
 Decision: 5 votes for Shaw, 4 vote(s) against
VI. Reasoning
 This case involved two of the most complex and sensitive issues the Court has faced in
recent years: the meaning of the constitutional “right” to vote and the propriety of racebased state legislation designed to benefit members of historically disadvantaged
minority groups.
 The dissenters noted (1) that the case was brought by white voters challenging the district
that made possible North Carolina’s first black representatives to Congress since
Reconstruction; (2) that the holding citing the 14th Amendment perversely made
redistricting that advantaged blacks subject to more rigorous scrutiny than redistricting
advantaging other non-racial groups, though the impetus of the 14th was to provide for
equal protection for blacks, and; (3) that allowing race-based voting blocs is distinct from
other forms of affirmative action insofar as allowing race-based blocs doesn’t deny
another person her rights and privileges, as for example, race-based hiring and retention
practices do.
VII. Personal Opinion
 I am not totally sure about this court case because I do not fully understand the main
issue of the case. Although, I don’t agree with the redistricting based on race
VIII. Historical Significance of the Case
 Subsequent decisions on similar issues have made use of Shaw and refined it, though the
four dissenters have held fast in their belief that no cause of action exists. For instance,
Miller v. Johnson, which concerned a similarly irregular district in Georgia, was also
decided 5-4, with the majority comprising exactly the same five justices as in Shaw.
IX. Citations
"Shaw v. Reno." OYEZ. OYEZ U.S. Supreme Court Media, n.d. Web. 17 Apr 2011.
<http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1992/1992_92_357>.
"Shaw v. Reno." Answers.com. Answers Corporation, n.d. Web. 28 Apr 2011.
<http://www.answers.com/topic/shaw-v-reno>.
"Shaw v. Reno [Shaw I]." CaseBriefs. Casebriefs LLC, n.d. Web. 28 Apr 2011.
<http://www.ecasebriefs.com/blog/law/constitutional-law/constitutional-law-keyed-tochemerinsky/equal-protection/shaw-v-reno-shaw-i/>.
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