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BRISCOE v. BELL

June 20, 1977

BRISCOE, GOVERNOR OF TEXAS, ET AL
v.
BELL, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT

Burger, Brennan, Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist, Stevens.

Author: Marshall

[ 432 U.S. Page 405]

 MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

At issue in this case is the construction of § 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U. S. C. § 1973b (1970 ed. and Supp. V). "The Voting Rights Act was designed by Congress to banish the blight of racial discrimination in voting." South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 308 (1966). While the Act has had a dramatic effect in increasing the participation of black citizens in the electoral process, both as voters and elected officials, Congress has not viewed it as an unqualified success.*fn1 Most recently, as part of the 1975 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, 89 Stat. 400, Congress extended the Act's strong protections to cover language minorities -- that is, citizens living in environments where the dominant language is not English. Congress concluded after extensive hearings that there was "overwhelming evidence" showing "the ingenuity and prevalence of discriminatory practices that have been used to dilute the voting strength and otherwise

[ 432 U.S. Page 406]

     affect the voting rights of language minorities."*fn2 Concern was particularly expressed over the plight of Mexican-American citizens in Texas, a State that had not been covered by the 1965 Act.*fn3 This case arises out of Texas' efforts to prevent application of the 1975 amendments to it.

I

Petitioners, the Governor and Secretary of State of Texas, filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the Attorney General of the United States and the Director of the Census.*fn4 These officials are responsible for

[ 432 U.S. Page 407]

     determining whether the preconditions for application of the Act to particular jurisdictions are met. See § 4(b) of the Act, 42 U. S. C.§ 1973b(b) (1970 ed., Supp. V).*fn5 Petitioners sought interlocutory injunctive relief to restrain official publication of respondents' determinations that Texas was covered by the 1975 amendments, and a "declaratory judgment" determining "how and under what circumstances the determinations... should be made."*fn6 Pet. for Cert. 6.

Respondents opposed the motion for a preliminary injunction, and moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of jurisdiction to review determinations made under § 4(b). The jurisdictional argument was based on the final paragraph of § 4(b),

[ 432 U.S. Page 408]

     which provides in pertinent part: "A determination or certification of the Attorney General or of the Director of the Census under this section... shall not be reviewable in any court...." The District Court ruled, however, that this apparent preclusion of judicial review was not absolute. It found that there was jurisdiction to consider the "pure legal question" whether the Executive officials had correctly interpreted an Act of Congress. Reaching ...


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