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June 15, 1964



Warren, Black, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Goldberg

Author: Warren

[ 377 U.S. Page 658]

 MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves an appeal from a decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals upholding the validity, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, of the apportionment of seats in the Maryland Senate.


Appellants, residents, taxpayers and voters in four populous Maryland counties (Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's) and the City of Baltimore, and an unincorporated association, originally brought an action in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County, in August 1960, challenging the apportionment of the Maryland Legislature. Defendants below, sued in their representative capacities, were various officials

[ 377 U.S. Page 659]

     charged with duties in connection with state elections. Plaintiffs below alleged that the apportionment of both houses of the Maryland Legislature, pursuant to Art. III, §§ 2 and 5, of the 1867 Maryland Constitution, as amended, discriminated against inhabitants of the more populous counties and the City of Baltimore by according these persons substantially less representation than that given to persons residing in other areas of the State. They contended that the alleged legislative malapportionment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since that provision prohibits any State from "denying, diluting or restricting the equality of voting rights or privileges among classes of otherwise eligible voters similarly situated," and asserted that there was no political remedy practicably available under Maryland law to obtain the relief sought.

Plaintiffs below sought a declaratory judgment that Art. III, §§ 2 and 5, of the Maryland Constitution deny them and those similarly situated rights protected under the Equal Protection Clause, and that the failure of the Maryland Legislature to reapportion its membership in accordance with a formula which would reasonably reflect present population figures deprived them of their constitutional rights. Plaintiffs also requested a declaration that the failure of the Maryland General Assembly to convene a constitutional convention as approved by a majority of the State's voters in the general election of 1950 violated various provisions of the State Constitution.

Plaintiffs requested that, unless the November 1962 election and elections thereafter were conducted on an at-large basis, the court enjoin defendants from performing various election duties until such time as the General Assembly should submit for a referendum vote by eligible state voters an amendment to Art. III, §§ 2 and 5, which would reapportion the membership of the Maryland Legislature on a population basis in conformity with the

[ 377 U.S. Page 660]

     requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs also asked the court to retain jurisdiction of the case until the General Assembly submitted such a constitutional amendment to the State's voters.

On February 21, 1961, the Circuit Court sustained defendants' demurrers to plaintiffs' complaint and dismissed the complaint without leave to amend. On appeal, the Maryland Court of Appeals, on April 25, 1962, splitting 5-to-2, reversed the order of the Circuit Court and remanded the case for a hearing on the merits. 228 Md. 412, 180 A. 2d 656. Finding that the federal questions raised were not non-justiciable in a Maryland state court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, after discussing this Court's decision in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, stated that

"if any action needs to be taken in order to bring the State's system of legislative apportionment into conformity with the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . , it is preferable from the point of view of responsible self-government that the State's own duly constituted officials and the people themselves undertake the task, rather than leave to the Federal judiciary the delicate and perhaps unwelcome task of doing so."*fn1

While recognizing that "[there] was no need in Baker v. Carr. . . for the Supreme Court to pass upon the power of a State court to deal with questions of State legislative apportionment," the Maryland Court of Appeals found "implicit in the vacation of the judgment and remand by the Supreme Court of the United States to the Supreme Court of Michigan of the case of Scholle v. Hare " this Court's view that cases challenging the constitutionality of state legislative apportionments are "appropriate for consideration by a State court . . . ."*fn2 Finding "a

[ 377 U.S. Page 661]

     strong implication in the Baker decision that there must be some reasonable relationship of population, or eligible voters, to representation in the General Assembly, if an apportionment is to escape the label of constitutionally-prohibited invidious discrimination," the Maryland court nevertheless stated that it was not "possible (or advisable if it were possible) to state a precise, inflexible and intractable formula for constitutional representation in the General Assembly."*fn3 In remanding to the lower state court to "receive evidence to determine whether or not an invidious discrimination does exist with respect to representation in either or both houses" of the Maryland Legislature, the Court of Appeals stated that, if the Maryland constitutional provisions relating to legislative apportionment were held invalid as to the November 1962 election, the Circuit Court should "also declare that the Legislature has the power, if called into Special Session by the Governor and such action be deemed appropriate by it, to enact a bill reapportioning its membership for purposes" of that election.

On May 24, 1962, the Circuit Court, after receiving various exhibits and hearing argument, held that the apportionment of the Maryland House of Delegates invidiously discriminated against the people of Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties, but not against the people of Baltimore City or Anne Arundel County, and that therefore Art. III, § 5, of the Maryland Constitution, which apportions seats in the House of Delegates, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although stating that the apportionment of the Maryland Senate might be "constitutionally based upon area nd geographical location regardless of population or eligible voters," the Circuit Court refrained from formally passing on the validity of the senatorial apportionment. The lower court also stated

[ 377 U.S. Page 662]

     that the Maryland Legislature had the power to enact a statute providing for the reapportionment of the House of Delegates as well as to propose a constitutional amendment providing for such a reapportionment. It withheld the granting of injunctive relief but retained jurisdiction to do so before the November 1962 election if such became appropriate.

On May 31, 1962, the Maryland Legislature, called into special session by the Governor, enacted temporary "stop-gap" legislation reapportioning seats in the House of Delegates, by allocating 19 added seats to the more populous areas of the State.*fn4 However, the legislature failed to pass a proposed constitutional amendment reapportioning the Maryland House. The newly enacted apportionment statute expires automatically on January 1, 1966, except that, if a constitutional amendment superseding the statutory provisions is submitted to the voters at the 1964 general election and is rejected, the statute will continue in force until January 1, 1970. The statute further provides that upon its expiration the House of Delegates shall again be apportioned according to Art. III, § ...

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