Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234 (2001)

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appeal from the united states district court for the eastern district of north carolina

No. 99-1864. Argued November 27, 2000—Decided April 18, 2001†

After this Court found that North Carolina's Legislature violated the

Constitution by using race as the predominant factor in drawing its Twelfth Congressional District's 1992 boundaries, Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U. S. 899, the State redrew those boundaries. A three-judge District Court subsequently granted appellees summary judgment, finding that the new 1997 boundaries had also been created with racial considerations dominating all others. This Court reversed, finding that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the evidence was consistent with a race-based objective or the constitutional political objective of creating a safe Democratic seat. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U. S. 541. Among other things, this Court relied on evidence proposed to be submitted by appellants to conclude that, because the State's African-American voters overwhelmingly voted Democratic, one could not easily distinguish a legislative effort to create a majority-minority district from a legislative effort to create a safely Democratic one; that data showing voter registration did not indicate how voters would actually vote; and that data about actual behavior could affect the litigation's outcome. Id., at 547-551. On remand, the District Court again held, after a 3-day trial, that the legislature had used race driven criteria in drawing the 1997 boundaries. It based that conclusion on three findings—the district's shape, its splitting of towns and counties, and its heavily African-American voting population—that this Court had considered when it found summary judgment inappropriate, and on the new finding that the legislature had drawn the boundaries to collect precincts with a high racial, rather than political, identification.

Held: The District Court's conclusion that the State violated the Equal

Protection Clause in drawing the 1997 boundaries is based on clearly erroneous findings. Pp. 241-258.

*Governor Michael F. Easley is hereby substituted for former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., pursuant to this Court's Rule 35.3.

†Together with No. 99-1865, Smallwood et al. v. Cromartie et al., also on appeal from the same court.

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