Lawyer v. Department of Justice, 521 U.S. 567 (1997)

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appeal from the united states district court for the middle district of florida

No. 95-2024. Argued February 19, 1997—Decided June 25, 1997

Based on the 1990 census, the Florida Legislature adopted a reapportionment plan for State Senate and House districts. When the Justice Department refused to preclear the plan, the State Supreme Court entered an order encouraging the state legislature to adopt a new plan. Advised that the Governor would not convene an extraordinary session and that neither the Senate President nor the House Speaker would convene his respective House, the court concluded that legislative impasse had occurred and revised the redistricting plan itself producing Plan 330. In 1995, appellant and other residents of Senate District 21 as revised in Plan 330 filed suit against state and federal parties in the Federal District Court, alleging that District 21 violated the Equal Protection Clause. The three-judge court permitted intervention by the State Senate, the House of Representatives, and others. Ultimately, all the parties but appellant agreed to a settlement that would revise District 21 under a new plan, Plan 386. At a hearing, the District Court rejected appellant's objections that the court was obliged to find Plan 330 unconstitutional before approving the settlement, and that Plan 386 was unconstitutional under Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, because only race could explain District 21's contours. The court approved the settlement.

Held: 1. The District Court did not err in approving the settlement agreement without formally holding Plan 330 unconstitutional. Pp. 575-580. (a) State redistricting responsibility should be accorded primacy to the extent possible when a federal court exercises remedial power. Growe v. Emison, 507 U. S. 25, 34. A State should be given the opportunity to make its own redistricting decision so long as that is practically possible and the State chooses to take the opportunity. Ibid.; Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U. S. 535, 540. The District Court's decision did not deny the State's legislature and Supreme Court the opportunity to devise a new redistricting plan here, for the State has selected its opportunity by entering into the settlement agreement. There is no reason to suppose that the State's attorney general lacked authority to propose a plan as an incident of his authority to represent the State in the litigation, and the participation of counsel for each legislative chamber con-


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