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MOODY V. FLOWERS, 387 U. S. 97 (1967)

U.S. Supreme Court

Moody v. Flowers, 387 U.S. 97 (1967)

Moody v. Flowers

No. 624

Argued April 17-18, 1967

Decided May 22, 1967*

387 U.S. 97


These cases involve attacks on state statutes on the ground that they cause malapportionment in the establishment of local units governed by elected bodies. In No. 624, appellants sued state officers and others seeking to enjoin enforcement of an Alabama statute which prescribes the apportionment and districting scheme for electing members of Houston County's governing board and allegedly causes overrepresentation of certain areas and underrepresentation of others. In No. 491, appellees sued the members of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors seeking to enjoin enforcement of county charter provisions specifying that the County's governing board shall be composed of the supervisors of its 10 towns (which vary in population) each of whom shall have one vote. In both cases, three-judge district courts were convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, which requires a three-judge court where an injunction is sought to restrain the operation of a state statute. From the dismissal of the complaint in No. 624, and the judgment invalidating on equal protection grounds the statute in No. 491, appeals were taken.


1. The "statute" in each of these cases is one of limited application concerning only a particular county; hence a three-judge court was improperly convened under 28 U.S.C. § 2281, and each appeal should have been taken to the appropriate Court of Appeals, not to this Court. Pp. 387 U. S. 101-104.

(a) The purpose of § 2281 is to prevent a single judge from paralyzing an entire regulatory scheme on a statewide basis by issuing a broad injunction order. P. 387 U. S. 101.

(b) Section 2281 does not apply to local ordinances or resolutions, such as those involved in these cases or operate against state officers like those here who perform matters of only local concern. Pp. 387 U. S. 101-102.

Page 387 U. S. 98

(c) A local device, like the one in No. 624, does not assume statewide significance for purposes of determining three-judge court jurisdiction because other local devices may work toward the same end. P. 387 U. S. 102.

(d) The county charter, in No. 491, is similar to a local ordinance, and its character is not changed because it is enacted into state law. Though the alleged malapportionment reflected in that charter is also reflected in other statutory provisions having statewide application, the complaint challenged and the three-judge court considered only the charter, and not statewide law. Pp. 387 U. S. 102-104.

2. Since the time for perfecting appeals to the respective Courts of Appeal may have passed, the judgments are vacated and remanded for the entry of fresh decrees to facilitate timely appeals. P. 387 U. S. 104.

No. 624, 256 F.Supp. 195, and No. 491, 256 F.Supp. 617, vacated and remanded.

Page 387 U. S. 99

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