Gomillion v. Lightfoot 364 U.S. 339 (1960)

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GOMILLION v. LIGHTFOOT 364 U.S. 339 (1960)

Alabama redrew the boundaries of the city of Tuskegee in "an uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure" that excluded from the city all but a handful of black voters while excluding no whites. The lower federal courts refused to grant any relief from this racial gerrymander, concluding on the basis of colegrove v. green (1946) that municipal boundaries, like legislative districting, presented only political questions that lacked justiciability.

The Supreme Court unanimously held the case justiciable, and eight Justices, speaking through Justice felix frankfurter, concluded that the gerrymander violated the fifteenth amendment. The effect of the law was so clear as to demonstrate a purpose to deprive blacks of their vote for city officials. Justice charles e. whittaker concurred, on the basis of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.

The door which Gomillion pried open was flung wide in baker v. carr (1962), when the Court held that the mal-apportionment of state legislative districts presented a justiciable controversy under the equal protection clause.

Kenneth L. Karst

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Gomillion v. Lightfoot 364 U.S. 339 (1960)

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