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MCDANIEL V. SANCHEZ, 452 U. S. 130 (1981)

U.S. Supreme Court

McDaniel v. Sanchez, 452 U.S. 130 (1981)

McDaniel v. Sanchez

No. 80-180

Argued March 2, 1981

Decided June 1, 1981

452 U.S. 130


After holding that the apportionment plan for precincts from which county commissioners were elected to serve on the Commissioners Court for Kleberg County, Tex., was unconstitutional because of substantial population variances in the precincts, the District Court directed county officials to submit a proposed reapportionment plan to the court. The Commissioners Court then employed an expert to prepare a new plan and subsequently adopted his plan and submitted it to the District Court. The court approved the plan and authorized the Commissioners Court to conduct 1980 primary and general elections under it, rejecting respondents' contention that § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Act) required the county, a jurisdiction covered by the Act, to obtain preclearance from either the Attorney General of the United States or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia before the plan could become effective. The Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's order, holding that

"[a] proposed reapportionment plan submitted by a local legislative body does not lose its status as a legislative, rather than court-ordered, plan merely because it is the product of litigation conducted in a federal forum,"

and that the Act required preclearance.

Held: Congress intended to require compliance with the statutory preclearance procedures under the circumstances of this case. Whenever a covered jurisdiction submits a proposal reflecting the policy choices of the elected representatives of the people -- no matter what constraints have limited the choices available to them -- the preclearance requirement of the Act is applicable. Pp. 452 U. S. 137-153.

(a) The statement in East Carroll Parish School Board v. Marshall, 424 U. S. 636 -- which held that a court-adopted reapportionment plan suggested by the local legislative body there involved was a judicial plan for purposes of substantive review -- that the plan was also a judicial plan for purposes of § 5 preclearance was dictum, and does not control this case. Pp. 452 U. S. 139-146.

(b) The language of § 5 does not unambiguously answer the question, but the legislative history of the 1975 amendments of the Act shows that it was intended that the statutory protections are to be available even

Page 452 U. S. 131

when redistricting by the governmental body is ordered by a federal court to remedy a constitutional violation that has been established in pending federal litigation. Pp. 452 U. S. 146-153.

615 F.2d 1023, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 452 U. S. 153. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 452 U. S. 154.

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