Shapiro v. McManus MD gerrymandering 990
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Date Created:December 4, 2015
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Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2015 Syllabus NOTE: Where feasible, syllabus (headnote) will released, being done connection with this case, the time the opinion issued. The syllabus constitutes part the opinion the Court but has been prepared the Reporter Decisions for the convenience the reader. See United States Detroit Timber Lumber Co., 200 321, 337. SUPREME COURT THE UNITED STATES Syllabus SHAPIRO AL. McMANUS, CHAIRMAN, MARYLAND STATE BOARD ELECTIONS, AL. CERTIORARI THE UNITED STATES COURT APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 990. Argued November 2015 Decided December 2015 Since 1976, federal law has mandated that district court three judges shall convened when action filed challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts 2284(a), and has provided that the judge [presented with request for three-judge court] shall, unless determines that three judges are not required, immediately notify the chief judge the circuit, who shall designate two other judges serve, 2284(b)(1). Petitioners requested that three-judge court convened consider their claim that Maryland 2011 congressional redistricting plan burdens their First Amendment right political association. Concluding that relief could granted for this claim, the District Judge dismissed the action instead notifying the Chief Judge the Circuit convene three-judge court. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Held: Section 2284 entitles petitioners make their case before three-judge court. Pp. (a) Section 2284(a) prescription could not clearer. Because the present suit indisputably action challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts, the District Judge was required refer the case three-judge court. Section 2284(a) admits exception, and the mandatory shall normally creates obligation impervious judicial discretion. Lexecon Inc. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes Lerach, 523 26, 35. The subsequent provision 2284(b)(1), that the district judge shall commence the process for appointment three-judge panel unless determines that three judges are not required, should read not grant discretion the district judge ignore 2284(a), but SHAPIRO MCMANUS Syllabus compatible administrative detail requiring district judges determin[e] only whether the request for three judges made case covered 2284(a). This conclusion bolstered 2284(b)(3) explicit command that [a] single judge shall not enter judgment the merits. Pp. (b) Respondents alternative argument, that the District Judge should have dismissed petitioners claim constitutionally insubstantial under Goosby Osser, 409 512, unpersuasive. This Court has long distinguished between failing raise substantial federal question for jurisdictional purposes what Goosby addressed and failing state claim for relief the merits what the District Judge found here; only wholly insubstantial and frivolous claims implicate the former, Bell Hood, 327 678, 682 683. Absent such obvious frivolity, the failure state proper cause action calls for judgment the merits and not for dismissal for want jurisdiction. Id., 682. Petitioners plea for relief, which was based legal theory put forward JUSTICE KENNEDY concurrence Vieth Jubelirer, 541 267, 315, and uncontradicted subsequent majority opinions, easily clears Goosby low bar. Pp. 584 Fed. Appx. 140, reversed and remanded. SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion for unanimous Court. Cite as: 577 ____ (2015) Opinion the Court NOTICE: This opinion subject formal revision before publication the preliminary print the United States Reports. Readers are requested notify the Reporter Decisions, Supreme Court the United States, Washington, 20543, any typographical other formal errors, order that corrections may made before the preliminary print goes press. SUPREME COURT THE UNITED STATES _________________ No. 990 _________________ STEPHEN SHAPIRO, AL., PETITIONERS DAVID MCMANUS, JR., CHAIRMAN, MARYLAND STATE BOARD ELECTIONS, AL. WRIT CERTIORARI THE UNITED STATES COURT APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT [December 2015] JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion the Court. consider under what circumstances, any, district judge free determin[e] that three judges are not required for action challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts. 2284(a), (b)(1). Rare today, three-judge district courts were more common the decades before 1976, when they were required for various adjudications, including the grant interlocutory permanent injunction restraining the enforcement, operation execution any State statute upon the ground the unconstitutionality such statute. 2281 (1970 ed.), repealed, Pub. 381, Stat. 1119. See Currie, The Three-Judge District Court Constitutional Litigation, Chi. Rev. (1964). Decisions three-judge courts could, then now, appealed right directly this Court. 1253. SHAPIRO MCMANUS Opinion the Court 1976, Congress substantially curtailed the circumstances under which three-judge court required. was longer required for the grant injunction against state statutes, see Pub. 381, Stat. 1119 (repealing 2281), but was mandated for action challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts the apportionment any statewide legislative body. Id., now codified 2284(a). Simultaneously, Congress amended the procedures governing three-judge district courts. The prior statute had provided: The district judge whom the application for injunction other relief presented shall constitute one member [the three-judge] court. the filing the application, shall immediately notify the chief judge the circuit, who shall designate two other judges serve. 2284(1) (1970 ed.). The amended statute provides: Upon the filing request for three judges, the judge whom the request presented shall, unless determines that three judges are not required, immediately notify the chief judge the circuit, who shall designate two other judges serve. 2284(b)(1) (2012 ed.) (emphasis added). The dispute here concerns the scope the italicized text. response the 2010 Census, Maryland enacted statute October 2011 establishing or, more pejoratively, gerrymandering the districts for the State eight congressional seats. Dissatisfied with the crazy-quilt results, see App. Pet. for Cert. 23a, petitioners, bipartisan group citizens, filed suit pro Federal District Court. Their amended complaint alleges, inter alia, that Maryland redistricting plan burdens their First Amendment right political association. Petitioners also requested that three-judge court convened hear the Cite as: 577 ____ (2015) Opinion the Court case. The District Judge, however, thought the claim not one for which relief can granted. Benisek Mack, Supp. 516, 526 (Md. 2014). [N]othing about the congressional districts issue this case affects any proscribed way [petitioners ability participate the political debate any the Maryland congressional districts which they might find themselves. They are free join preexisting political committees, form new ones, use whatever other means are their disposal influence the opinions their congressional representatives. Ibid. (brackets, ellipsis, and internal quotation marks omitted). For that reason, instead notifying the Chief Judge the Circuit the need for three-judge court, the District Judge dismissed the action. The Fourth Circuit summarily affirmed unpublished disposition. Benisek Mack, 584 Fed. Appx. 140 (CA4 2014). Seeking review this Court, petitioners pointed out that least two other Circuits consider reversible error for district judge dismiss case under 2284 for failure state claim for relief rather than refer for transfer three-judge court. See LaRouche Fowler, 152 974, 981 983 (CADC 1998); LULAC Texas, 113 53, (CA5 1997) (per curiam). granted certiorari. Shapiro Mack, 576 ___ (2015). Petitioners sole contention that the District Judge had authority dismiss the case rather than initiate the procedures convene three-judge court. Not so, argue respondents; the 1976 addition 2284(b)(1) the clause unless determines that three judges are not required precisely such grant authority. Moreover, say respondents, Congress declined specify standard constrain the exercise this authority. Choosing, SHAPIRO MCMANUS Opinion the Court the District Judge did, the familiar standard for dismissal under Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) best serves the purposes three-judge court, which (in respondents view) protect States from hasty, imprudent invalidation their statutes rogue district judges acting alone. Brief for Respondents 27. Whatever the purposes three-judge court may be, respondents argument needlessly produces contradiction the statutory text. That text initial prescription could not clearer: district court three judges shall convened when action filed challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts 2284(a) (emphasis added). Nobody disputes that the present suit action challenging the constitutionality the apportionment congressional districts. follows that the district judge was required refer the case three-judge court, for 2284(a) admits exception, and the mandatory shall normally creates obligation impervious judicial discretion. Lexecon Inc. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes Lerach, 523 26, (1998); see also National Assn. Home Builders Defenders Wildlife, 551 644, 661 662 (2007) (same). The subsequent provision 2284(b)(1), that the district judge shall commence the process for appointment three-judge panel unless determines that three judges are not required, need not and therefore should not read grant discretion the district judge ignore 2284(a). not even framed proviso, exception from that provision, but rather administrative detail that entirely compatible with 2284(a). The old 2284(1) triggered the district judge duty refer the matter for the convening three-judge court [o]n the filing the application enjoin unconstitutional state law. contrast, the current 2284(b)(1) triggers the district judge duty [u]pon the filing request for Cite as: 577 ____ (2015) Opinion the Court three judges (emphasis added). But course party may whether good faith bad, through ignorance hope malice file request for three-judge court even the case does not merit one under 2284(a). Section 2284(b)(1) merely clarifies that district judge need not unthinkingly initiate the procedures convene threejudge court without first examining the allegations the complaint. short, all the district judge must determin[e] whether the request for three judges made case covered 2284(a) more, less. That conclusion bolstered 2284(b)(3) explicit command that [a] single judge shall not enter judgment the merits. would odd interpretation that allowed district judge under 2284(b)(1) what forbidden under 2284(b)(3). More likely that Congress intended three-judge court, and not single district judge, enter all final judgments cases satisfying the criteria 2284(a). III Respondents argue the alternative that district judge not required refer case for the convening three-judge court the constitutional claim (as they assert petitioners claim be) insubstantial. Goosby Osser, 409 512 (1973), stated that the filing constitutionally insubstantial claim did not trigger the three-judge-court requirement under the pre-1976 statutory regime. Id., 518. Goosby rested not interpretation statutory text, but the familiar proposition that [i]n the absence diversity citizenship, essential jurisdiction that substantial federal question should presented. parte Poresky, 290 30, (1933) (per curiam) (emphasis added). Absent substantial federal question, even single-judge district court lacks jurisdiction, and [a] three-judge court not required where the district court itself lacks jurisdiction SHAPIRO MCMANUS Opinion the Court the complaint the complaint not justiciable the federal courts. Gonzalez Automatic Employees Credit Union, 419 90, 100 (1974). the present case, however, the District Judge dismissed petitioners complaint not because thought lacked jurisdiction, but because concluded that the allegations failed state claim for relief the merits, citing Ashcroft Iqbal, 556 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. Twombly, 550 544 (2007). See Supp. 3d, 520. That was accord with Fourth Circuit precedent, which holds that where the pleadings not state claim, then definition they are insubstantial and properly are subject dismissal the district court without convening three-judge court. Duckworth State Admin. Bd. Election Laws, 332 769, 772 773 (CA4 2003) (emphasis added). think this standard both too demanding and inconsistent with our precedents. [C]onstitutional claims will not lightly found insubstantial for purposes the three-judge-court statute. Washington Confederated Tribes Colville Reservation, 447 134, 147 148 (1980). have long distinguished between failing raise substantial federal question for jurisdictional purposes which what Goosby addressed and failing state claim for relief the merits; only wholly insubstantial and frivolous claims implicate the former. Bell Hood, 327 678, 682 683 (1946); see also Hannis Distilling Co. Mayor and City Council Baltimore, 216 285, 288 (1910) obviously frivolous plainly insubstantial Bailey Patterson, 369 31, (1962) (per curiam) wholly insubstantial, legally speaking non-existent, essentially fictitious Steel Co. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 83, (1998) frivolous immaterial Absent such frivolity, the failure state proper cause action calls for judgment the merits and not for dismissal for want jurisdiction. Bell, Cite as: 577 ____ (2015) Opinion the Court supra, 682. Consistent with this principle, Goosby clarified that [c]onstitutional insubstantiality for this purpose has been equated with such concepts essentially fictitious, wholly insubstantial, obviously frivolous, and obviously without merit. 409 S., 518 (citations omitted). And the adverbs were mere throwaways; [t]he limiting words wholly and obviously have cogent legal significance. Ibid. Without expressing any view the merits petitioners claim, believe easily clears Goosby low bar; after all, the amended complaint specifically challenges Maryland apportionment along the lines suggested Justice Kennedy his concurrence Vieth [v. Jubelirer, 541 267 (2004)]. App. Brief Opposition 44. Although the Vieth plurality thought all political gerrymandering claims nonjusticiable, JUSTICE KENNEDY, concurring the judgment, surmised that State did impose burdens and restrictions groups persons reason their views, there would likely First Amendment violation, unless the State shows some compelling interest. Where alleged that gerrymander had the purpose and effect imposing burdens disfavored party and its voters, the First Amendment may offer sounder and more prudential basis for intervention than does the Equal Protection Clause. Vieth Jubelirer, 541 267, 315 (2004). Whatever wholly insubstantial, obviously frivolous, etc., mean, minimum they cannot include plea for relief based legal theory put forward Justice this Court and uncontradicted the majority any our cases. Accordingly, the District Judge should not have dismissed the claim constitutionally insubstantial under Goosby. Perhaps petitioners will ultimately fail the merits their suit, but 2284 entitles them make their case before threejudge district court. SHAPIRO MCMANUS Opinion the Court The judgment the Fourth Circuit reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. ordered.