Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 7 (1996)

Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Cite as: 517 U. S. 899 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

nign or the purpose remedial. Shaw I, supra, at 642-643, 653; Adarand, supra, at 228-229. Applying traditional equal protection principles in the voting-rights context is "a most delicate task," Miller, supra, at 905, however, because a legislature may be conscious of the voters' races without using race as a basis for assigning voters to districts. Shaw I, supra, at 645-646; Miller, 515 U. S., at 916. The constitutional wrong occurs when race becomes the "dominant and controlling" consideration. Id., at 911, 915-916.

The plaintiff bears the burden of proving the race-based motive and may do so either through "circumstantial evidence of a district's shape and demographics" or through "more direct evidence going to legislative purpose." Id., at 916. After a detailed account of the process that led to enactment of the challenged plan, the District Court found that the General Assembly of North Carolina "deliberately drew" District 12 so that it would have an effective voting majority of black citizens. 861 F. Supp., at 473.

Appellees urge upon us their view that this finding is not phrased in the same language that we used in our opinion in Miller v. Johnson, supra, where we said that a plaintiff must show "that race was the predominant factor motivating the legislature's decision to place a significant number of voters within or without a particular district." Id., at 916.

The District Court, of course, did not have the benefit of our opinion in Miller at the time it wrote its opinion. While it would have been preferable for the court to have analyzed the case in terms of the standard laid down in Miller, that was not possible. This circumstance has no consequence here because we think that the District Court's findings, read in the light of the evidence that it had before it, comport with the Miller standard.

First, the District Court had evidence of the district's shape and demographics. The court observed "the obvious fact" that the district's shape is "highly irregular and geo-


Page:   Index   Previous  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007