Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 24 (1996)

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Stevens, J., dissenting

from the integrative rather than the segregative effects of the State's redistricting plan.

Perhaps cognizant of this incongruity, counsel for plaintiffs asserted a rather more abstract objection to race-based districting at oral argument. He suggested that the plaintiffs objected to the use of race in the districting process not because of any adverse consequence that these plaintiffs, on account of their race, had suffered more than other persons, but rather because the State's failure to obey a constitutional command to legislate in a color-blind manner conveyed a message to voters across the State that "there are two black districts and ten white districts." 2 Tr. of Oral Arg. 5.

Such a challenge calls to mind Justice Frankfurter's memorable characterization of the suit brought in Colegrove v. Green, 328 U. S. 549, 552 (1946). "This is not an action to recover for damage because of the discriminatory exclusion of a plaintiff from rights enjoyed by other citizens," he explained. "The basis for the suit is not a private wrong, but a wrong suffered by Illinois as a polity." Ibid. Suits of this type necessarily press the boundaries of federal-court jurisdiction, if they do not surpass it. When a federal court is called upon, as it is here, to parse among varying legislative choices about the political structure of a State, and when the litigant's claim ultimately rests on "a difference of opinion as to the function of representative government" rather than a claim of discriminatory exclusion, Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S. 186, 333 (1962) (Harlan, J., dissenting), there is reason for

2 Counsel went so far as to liken the State's districting plan to state-run water fountains that are available to citizens of all races but are nevertheless labeled "Black" and "White." He argued that the State's race-based redistricting map constituted an unlawful racial classification in the same way that the signs above the fountains would. Although neither racial classification would deprive any person of a tangible benefit—water from both fountains and effective political representation would remain equally available to persons of all races—each would be unconstitutional because of the very fact that the State had espoused a racial classification publicly. Id., at 5-6.

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