Apportionment and Representative Government

Apportionment and Representative Government

Apportionment and Representative Government

Apportionment and Representative Government

Excerpt

This book is intended to examine the fundamentals of apportionment in relation to representative government. It is, however, permeated by the problems raised in the case of Baker v. Carr. Although those are taken up within the general organization of the book, it is well to have them in mind from the beginning.

The Tennessee Constitution provides for an apportionment of State Senate and House seats on the basis largely of equal-population districts and county boundaries. Reapportionment is constitutionally required every ten years (or so), and is to be performed by the legislature. The legislature did reapportion on several occasions between 1871 and 1901, but then ceased to do so until 1961, when certain voters brought suit before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. They sought a declaratory judgment against State officials under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee against any State's denying to persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The lower court held that it lacked jurisdiction of the case and that no claim was stated upon which relief could be granted. The plaintiffs, Baker et al., appealed the decision.

In Baker v. Carr, the Supreme Court held that the federal district court in Tennessee had jurisdiction. Voters had standing to bring the suit. And the case presented a justiciable question. The lower court's decision was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.

In the process of determining that jurisidiction was federal, the Court was impelled to assert its right to apply the Constitution to the organization of State legislatures. In the process of admitting the standing of the plaintiffs, it was impelled to find a possibility of denial of constitutional equality in systems of apportionment. In the process of affirming justiciability, it was impelled to deny pleas that apportionment systems were heavily political in nature and that intervention in them might prove too embarrassing and complex to suffer. In an extensive dissent, Justice Frankfurter denied the justiciability of this and similar cases.

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