Clemons v. Department of Commerce

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Clemons v. Department of Commerce (see also United States congressional apportionment#Controversy and history) was a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi on September 17, 2009, and unsuccessfully appealed to the United States Supreme Court, that challenged the constitutionality of the law setting membership in the United States House of Representatives at 435 members.

The case[edit]

The case, in brief, asked the court to decide three major points:

  1. Does the Constitution’s requirement of one person, one-vote [see also Reynolds v. Sims] apply to the interstate apportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives?
  2. Does the current level of inequality violate this standard?
  3. Does Congress need to increase the size of the House to remediate this inequality?[1]

Based on the principle of one person, one-vote, the suit cited a lack of compliance with Article I, Section 2 and Amendment XIV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution that "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers" and asked that the court declare the current apportionment system to be unconstitutional.

History of the case and current status[edit]

On July 7, 2010, the three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi ruled that Congress has discretion to set the size of the United States House of Representatives, even if significant voter inequality results. The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the United States Supreme Court on August 26, 2010. On November 17, 2010, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case or affirm the lower court decision (against the plaintiffs). The appellants' Reply Brief was filed November 22, 2010, completing the cycle of filings. The court considered the case in the conference of December 10, 2010.[2]

On December 13, 2010, the complaint was vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.[3] This essentially leaves the case as if it never occurred, leaving open the possibility of a future lawsuit to the same effect, but also throwing out the extensive legal analysis done by both parties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jurisdictional Statement, August 26, 2010,
  2. ^ Supreme Court docket for the case
  3. ^ Supreme Court orders for December 13, 2010