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MOODY ET AL. v. FLOWERS ET AL.

decided*fn*: May 22, 1967.

MOODY ET AL
v.
FLOWERS ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA.

Author: Douglas

[ 387 U.S. Page 99]

 MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The threshold question in these cases is whether this Court has jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. § 1253 on direct appeals from the decisions of the respective District Courts purportedly convened pursuant to 28 U. S. C. § 2281. The answer to that question in turn depends upon whether the three-judge courts in these cases were properly convened.

In No. 624, appellants attack the validity of an Alabama statute (Ala. Laws 1957, Act No. 9, p. 30) prescribing the apportionment and districting scheme for electing members of the Houston County Board of Revenue and Control. Under the statute, the Board consists of five members, each elected by the qualified electors of the district of which he is a resident. The challenged statute prescribes the areas constituting the various districts. The action is brought against the appellees, including some state officials, seeking a declaration that the statute is invalid and an injunction prohibiting its enforcement, and requesting that the court order at-large elections until the State Legislature redistricts and reapportions the Board on a population basis. The theory is that the apportionment and districting scheme results in the overrepresentation of certain areas and the under-representation of others. The complaint also requested

[ 387 U.S. Page 100]

     the convening of a three-judge court. A three-judge court was convened and the complaint was dismissed. 256 F.Supp. 195. We noted probable jurisdiction, 385 U.S. 966.

In No. 491, appellees brought an action against appellants, members of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors, seeking a declaration that so much of § 203 of the Suffolk County Charter (N. Y. Laws 1958, c. 278) as provides that each supervisor shall have one vote as a member of the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors violates the Fourteenth Amendment and an injunction prohibiting the appellants from acting as a Board of Supervisors unless and until a change in their voting strength is made, and requesting the convening of a three-judge court. The 10 towns of Suffolk County, New York, elect, by popular vote, a supervisor every two years. The supervisor is the town's representative on the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors. Suffolk County Charter § 201. And, each supervisor is entitled to one vote on the County Board of Supervisors. Suffolk County Charter § 203. Pursuant to Art. 9, §§ 1 and 2, of the New York Constitution, the State Legislature approved a charter for the county containing, inter alia, the above provisions. N. Y. Laws 1958, c. 278.

Appellees claim that granting each supervisor one vote regardless of the population of the town which elected him results in an overrepresentation of the towns with small populations and under-representation of towns with large populations.

A three-judge court was convened and it declared § 203 of the Suffolk County Charter invalid because in conflict with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and ordered the Board to submit to the county electorate a plan for reconstruction of the Board so as to insure voter equality. 256 F.Supp. 617. We noted probable jurisdiction. 385 U.S. 966.

[ 387 U.S. Page 101]

     This Court has jurisdiction of these direct appeals under 28 U. S. C. § 1253 only if the respective actions were "required . . . to be heard and determined by a district court of three judges." Section 2281 of 28 U. S. C. requires that a three-judge court be convened in any case in which a preliminary or permanent injunction is sought to restrain "the enforcement, operation or execution of any State statute by restraining the action of any officer of such State in the enforcement or execution of such statute . . . ." The purpose of § 2281 is "to prevent a single federal judge from being able to paralyze totally the operation of an entire regulatory scheme . . . by issuance of a broad injunctive order" (Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 154) and to provide "procedural protection against an improvident state-wide doom by a federal court of a state's legislative policy." Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 251. In order for § 2281 to come into play the plaintiffs must seek to enjoin state statutes "by whatever method they may be adopted, to which a State gives her sanction . . . ." American Federation of Labor v. Watson, 327 U.S. 582, 592-593.

The Court has consistently construed the section as authorizing a three-judge court not merely because a state statute is involved but only when a state statute of general and statewide application is sought to be enjoined. See, e. g., Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. 565; Ex parte Public National Bank, 278 U.S. 101; Rorick v. Board of Commissioners, 307 U.S. 208; Cleveland v. United States, 323 U.S. 329, 332; Griffin v. School Board, 377 U.S. 218, 227-228. The term "statute" in § 2281 does not encompass local ordinances or resolutions. The officer sought to be enjoined must be a state officer; a three-judge ...


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