Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995)

Author: U.S. Supreme Court

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Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995)

Shaw v. Hunt

No. 94-923

Argued December 5, 1995
Decided June 13, 1996 *
517 U.S. 899



Earlier in this case, in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, this Court held that appellants, whose complaint alleged that North Carolina had deliberately segregated voters by race when it created two bizarre-looking majority black congressional districts, Districts 1 and 12, had stated a claim for relief under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court remanded for further consideration by the District Court, which held that, although the North Carolina redistricting plan did classify voters by race, the classification survived strict scrutiny, and therefore was constitutional because it was narrowly tailored to further the State’s compelling interests in complying with §§ 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


1. Only the two appellants who live in District 12 have standing to continue this lawsuit, and only with respect to that district. The remaining appellants, who do not reside in either of the challenged districts and have not provided specific evidence that they personally were assigned to their voting districts on the basis of race, lack standing. See United States v. Hays, 515 U.S. 737. P. 904.

2. The North Carolina plan violates the Equal Protection Clause because the State’s reapportionment scheme is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Pp. 904-918.

(a) Strict scrutiny applies when race is the "predominant" consideration in drawing district lines such that "the legislature subordinates race-neutral districting principles . . . to racial considerations." Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 916. The District Court’s finding that the North Carolina General Assembly "deliberately drew" District 12 so that it would have an effective voting majority of black citizens, when read in the light of the evidence as to the district’s shape and demographics and the legislature’s objective, comports with the Miller standard. In order to justify its redistricting plan, therefore, the State must show not only that the plan was in pursuit of a compelling state interest, but also that it was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Id. at 920. Pp. 904-908.

(b) None of the three separate "compelling interests" to which appellees point suffices to sustain District 12. First, the District Court found that the State’s claimed interest in eradicating the effects of past discrimination did not actually precipitate the use of race in the redistricting plan, and the record does not establish that that finding was clearly erroneous. Second, the asserted interest in complying with § 5 of the Voting Rights Act did not justify redistricting here, since creating an additional majority black district, as urged by the Justice Department before it granted preclearance, was not required under a correct reading of § 5. See Miller, 515 U.S. at 921. This Court again rejects the Department’s expansive reading of § 5 and of its own authority thereunder as requiring States to maximize the number of majority-minority districts wherever possible. See, e.g., id. at 925. Third, District 12, as drawn, is not a remedy narrowly tailored to the State’s professed interest in avoiding liability under § 2 of the Act, which, inter alia, prohibits dilution of the voting strength of members of a minority group. District 12 could not remedy any potential § 2 violation, since the minority group must be shown to be "geographically compact" to establish § 2 liability, see, e.g., Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 50, and it cannot reasonably be suggested that District 12 contains a "geographically compact" population of any race. Appellees are singularly unpersuasive when they argue that a majority-minority district may be drawn anywhere if there is a strong basis in evidence for concluding that a § 2 violation exists somewhere in the State. A district so drawn could not avoid § 2 liability, which targets vote dilution injury to individuals in a particular area, not to the minority as a group. Just as in Miller, this Court does not here reach the question whether compliance with the Act, on its own, can be a compelling state interest under the proper circumstances. Pp. 908-918.

861 F.Supp. 408, reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O’CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG and BREYER, JJ., joined as to Parts II, III, IV, and V, post, p. 918. SOUTER, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG and BREYER, JJ., joined, post, p. 951.


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Chicago: U.S. Supreme Court, "Syllabus," Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995) in 517 U.S. 899 517 U.S. 900–517 U.S. 901. Original Sources, accessed June 14, 2024,

MLA: U.S. Supreme Court. "Syllabus." Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995), in 517 U.S. 899, pp. 517 U.S. 900–517 U.S. 901. Original Sources. 14 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: U.S. Supreme Court, 'Syllabus' in Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1995). cited in 1995, 517 U.S. 899, pp.517 U.S. 900–517 U.S. 901. Original Sources, retrieved 14 June 2024, from