Vieth v. Jubelirer

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Vieth v. Jubelirer
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 10, 2003
Decided April 28, 2004
Full case name Richard Vieth, et al. v. Robert C. Jubelirer, President of the Pennsylvania Senate, et al.
Citations 541 U.S. 267 (more)
541 U.S. 267; 124 S.Ct. 1769; 158 L.Ed.2d 546
Prior history On appeal from the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 188 F.Supp.2d 532 (M.D.Pa.2002) (Vieth I); Vieth v. Pennsylvania, 195 F.Supp.2d 672 (M.D.Pa.2002) (Vieth II)
Holding
Gerrymandering claims present a non-justiciable question, as there are no judicially manageable standards available to resolve gerrymandering questions.
Court membership
Case opinions
Plurality Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, Thomas
Concurrence Kennedy
Dissent Stevens
Dissent Souter, joined by Ginsburg
Dissent Breyer

Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004), was a case heard before the United States Supreme Court. The ruling was significant in the area of partisan redistricting and political gerrymandering. The court, in a plurality decision by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas, with Justice Anthony Kennedy concurring in the judgment, upheld the ruling of the District Court in favor of the appellees that the alleged political gerrymandering was not unconstitutional.

Background[edit]

The plaintiff-appellants in this case were Norma Jean and Richard Vieth and Susan Furey, Democrats registered to vote in the State of Pennsylvania. They contended that the Republican controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly had unconstitutionally gerrymandered the districts for the election of congressional representatives. This, the plaintiffs claimed, denied Democrats full participation in the American political process by violating the one-person one-vote requirement of Article I of the United States Constitution, and denied Democrats equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The 2000 census determined that Pennsylvania was entitled to 19 Representatives in the United States Congress (two fewer than the previous delegation) and congressional election districts therefore had to be redrawn consistent with previous Supreme Court rulings. At the time the election districts were being drawn the Republican Party controlled both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature, and the Governor's office. According to the plaintiffs, prominent Republicans in the national party put pressure on the Assembly to redistrict along partisan lines "as a punitive measure against Democrats for having enacted pro-Democratic redistricting plans elsewhere" and to benefit the party in congressional elections in Pennsylvania.

Opinion of the Court[edit]

The plurality opinion determined that partisan gerrymandering claims were nonjusticiable because there was no discernible and manageable standard for "adjudicating political gerrymandering claims." The court did not explicitly overturn its ruling in an earlier case, Davis v. Bandemer, which had found the issue of partisan gerrymandering within the judiciary's remit: five justices were unwilling to determine that partisan gerrymandering claims were nonjusticiable.

Justice Anthony Kennedy concurred with the ruling of the court to uphold the District Court's decision, but maintained that cases of political gerrymandering were not justiciable in accordance with the majority decision. He did not, however, foreclose the possibility that judicially manageable standards for gerrymandering could be developed in future cases before the Court.

Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice David Souter, and Justice Stephen Breyer each provided dissenting opinions.

External links[edit]