Restructuring the New York City Government: The Reemergence of Municipal Reform

By Frank J. Mauro; Gerald Benjamin | Go to book overview

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Nos. 87-1022 AND 87-1112

BOARD OF ESTIMATE OF CITY OF NEW YORK,
ET AL., APPELLANTS

87-1022 v.

BEVERLY MORRIS ET AL.

FRANK V. PONTERIO, APPELLANT

87-1112 v.

BEVERLY MORRIS, JOY CLARKE HOLMES
AND JOANNE OPLUSTIL

ON APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT

[March 22, 1989]

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Board of Estimate of the City of New York consists of three members elected citywide, plus the elected presidents of each of the city's five boroughs. Because the boroughs have widely disparate populations—yet each has equal representation on the board — the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that this structure is inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We affirm.

Appellees, residents and voters of Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough, commenced this action against the city in December 1981. They charged that the city's Charter sections that govern the composition of the Board of Estimate 1 are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as construed and applied in various decisions of this Court dealing with districting and apportionment for the purpose of electing legislative bodies. The District Court dismissed the complaint, 551 F. Supp. 652 (EDNY 1982), on the ground that the board was not subject to the rule established by Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533 (1964), its companion cases, and its progeny, such as Abate v. Mundt, 403 U. S. 182 (1971), because in its view the board is a nonelective, nonlegislative body. The Court of Appeals reversed. 707 F. 2d 686 (CA2 1983). Because all eight officials on the board ultimately are selected by popular vote, the court concluded that the board's selection process must comply with the so-called "one person, one vote" requirement of the reapportionment cases. The court remanded to the

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Notes 1 and 3 in the original were deleted and the remainder renumbered.

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