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/>.