Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 11 (1996)

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

Opinion of the Court

A State's interest in remedying the effects of past or present racial discrimination may in the proper case justify a government's use of racial distinctions. Croson, 488 U. S., at 498-506. For that interest to rise to the level of a compelling state interest, it must satisfy two conditions. First, the discrimination must be " 'identified discrimination.' " Id., at 499, 500, 505, 507, 509. "While the States and their subdivisions may take remedial action when they possess evidence" of past or present discrimination, "they must identify that discrimination, public or private, with some specificity before they may use race-conscious relief." Id., at 504. A generalized assertion of past discrimination in a particular industry or region is not adequate because it "provides no guidance for a legislative body to determine the precise scope of the injury it seeks to remedy." Id., at 498 (opinion of O'Connor, J.). Accordingly, an effort to alleviate the

fers, separately or combined, would not amount to a compelling interest. First, the dissent seems to acknowledge that its initial reason—the "sorry history of race relations in North Carolina," post, at 941—did not itself drive the decision to create the minority districts, presumably for the reasons we discuss infra, at 910. The dissent contends next that an "acceptable reason for creating a second majority-minority district" was the "State's interest in avoiding the litigation that would have been necessary to overcome the Attorney General's objection" under 5. Post, at 942. If this were true, however, Miller v. Johnson would have been wrongly decided because there the Court rejected the contention that complying with the Justice Department's preclearance objection could be a compelling interest. Miller, supra, at 921-922. It necessarily follows that avoiding the litigation required to overcome the Department's objection could not be a compelling interest. The dissent's final reason—"the interest in avoiding the expense and unpleasantness of [ 2] litigation" "regardless of the possible outcome of [that] litigation," post, at 943—sweeps too broadly. We assume, arguendo, that a State may have a compelling interest in complying with the properly interpreted Voting Rights Act. Infra, at 915. But a State must also have a "strong basis in evidence," see Shaw I, 509 U. S., at 656 (quoting Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S. 469, 500 (1989)), for believing that it is violating the Act. It has no such interest in avoiding meritless lawsuits.


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