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BOSSIER PARISH SCH. BD. v. RENO

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


November 2, 1995

BOSSIER PARISH SCHOOL BD., Plaintiff,
v.
JANET RENO, Defendant, and GEORGE PRICE, ET AL., Defendant-Intervenors.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAURENCE H. SILBERMAN; RICHEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THREE-JUDGE COURT UNDER THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

Before Silberman, U.S. Circuit Judge, Richey, and Kessler, U.S. District Judges.

 Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge SILBERMAN, in which District Judge RICHEY joins.

 Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part filed by District Judge KESSLER.

 INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff, Bossier Parish School Board, seeks preclearance under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c, for its proposed redistricting. We shall grant the requested preclearance.

 I.

 Bossier Parish is located in northwestern Louisiana, bordered on the north by Arkansas. As reported by the 1990 census, Bossier Parish's population is 86,088, of whom 20.1% are black. Blacks constitute 17.6% of the voting age population of Bossier Parish and 15.5% of its registered voters. Bossier City, the Parish's most populous city, is located in the central western portion of the Parish and has a population of 52,721, of whom 17.95% are black. The black population is also concentrated in Benton, Plain Dealing, Haughton, and in the unincorporated community of Princeton.

 Bossier Parish is governed by a Police Jury, the 12 members of which are elected from single-member districts for consecutive four-year terms. At no time in Parish history have the Police Jury electoral districts included a district with a majority of black voters. Since 1983, however, a black police juror, Jerome Darby, has been elected three times from a majority-white district, the last time unopposed. *fn1"

 The Police Jury undertook to redraw its electoral districts because of population shifts, as reflected in the 1980 census, that resulted in widely divergent populations among the existing districts. In November 1990, the Police Jury hired a cartographer, Gary Joiner, to assist in the process. At a public hearing on the Police Jury redistricting, black residents inquired about the possibility of creating majority-black districts, and were told that the black population of Bossier Parish was too far-flung to create any such district. On April 30, 1991, the Police Jury unanimously adopted one of the plans prepared by their cartographer as the final plan. The plan served the police jurors' incumbency concerns, and roughly provided for an even distribution of population among the districts. That same day, Concerned Citizens, a group of black residents of Bossier Parish, submitted a letter to the Police Jury complaining about the manner in which the redistricting plan was prepared and adopted. The plan was forwarded to the Attorney General on May 28, 1991, and, on July 29, 1991, the Attorney General precleared it. On January 11, 1994, the Police Jury unanimously voted to maintain the redistricting plan precleared by the Attorney General.

 The Bossier Parish School Board is constituted much like the Police Jury. *fn2" The School Board has 12 members elected from single-member districts to consecutive four-year terms. Both the Police Jury and School Board electoral districts have majority voting requirements: a candidate must receive a majority of the votes cast, not merely a plurality, to win an election. In the School Board's history, no black candidate has been elected to membership on the Board, though, as is discussed infra, one black School Board member was appointed to a vacant seat in 1992.

 The Board, like the Police Jury, was also required to redraw its districts after the 1990 census. In fact, members of the Board had approached the Police Jury about the prospect of jointly redistricting, but were rebuffed by police jurors with incumbency concerns divergent from those of the School Board members. *fn3" The next scheduled election for the School Board was not until November 1994, and the School Board did not undertake the task of redistricting with particular urgency. In May 1991, the Board hired the same cartographer who had assisted the Police Jury with its redistricting, Gary Joiner. When he was hired, Joiner informed the Board that one readily available option was the Police Jury plan which had already been precleared by the Attorney General and which, if adopted by the Board, was sure to be precleared again. When he was hired, Joiner estimated that the redistricting would require 200 to 250 hours of his time.

 At a Board meeting in September 1991, Board member Thomas Myrick suggested that the Board adopt the Police Jury plan. Myrick had participated in a number of meetings with Joiner and police jurors during their redistricting. No action was taken on Myrick's proposal.

 On March 25, 1992, George Price, president of the local chapter of the NAACP and a defendant-intervenor in this case, wrote to the Board to express the NAACP's desire to be involved in every aspect of the redistricting process. Price received no response to his letter and, on August 17, 1992, wrote again, this time to say that the NAACP would dispute any plan that did not provide for majority-black districts. At an August 20, 1992 meeting of the School Board, Price presented a number of proposals concerning the management of the school district to the School Board, including the appointment of a black to fill the vacancy on the Board created by a Board member's departure. Sometime during August 1992, Board members met individually with Joiner to review different options for redistricting. *fn4"

 During the summer of 1992, the NAACP Redistricting Project in Baltimore, Maryland prepared a redistricting plan for the School Board that included two majority-black districts. Price presented the results of these efforts, a partial plan demonstrating the possibility of two majority-black districts, to a School Board official. Price was told that the School Board would not consider a plan that did not set forth all 12 districts. Price brought just such a plan to the September 3, 1992 meeting of the School Board. At that meeting, both Joiner and Bossier Parish District Attorney, James Buller, dismissed the NAACP plan because the plan required splitting a number of voting precincts. *fn5"

 Under Louisiana law, school board districts must contain whole voting precincts (i.e., they may not split voting precincts). See Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 17, § 71.3 E. (1) ("The boundaries of any election district for a new apportionment plan from which members of a school board are elected shall contain whole precincts established by the parish governing authority. . . ."). While there has been dispute over the matter, the parties have stipulated that school boards redistricting around the time the Bossier Parish School Board was redistricting were "free to request precinct changes from the Police Jury necessary to accomplish their redistricting plans." [Stip P 23.] Defendant-intervenors' witness, David Creed, testified that he himself had routinely drawn redistricting plans that split precincts. The largest number of precincts that Creed had ever split was eight--far fewer than the 46 precinct splits resulting under the NAACP plan that was presented to the Board or any other plan proffered since by defendant or defendant-intervenors. In any event, the School Board never approached the Police Jury to request precinct changes.

 On September 10, 1992, the School Board interviewed candidates for the one vacant seat on the School Board. By a six-to-five vote, the School Board appointed the only black candidate, Jerome Blunt. Defendant-Intervenors contend that this appointment came despite "bitter opposition from white voters." [D-I Br. at 15.] On September 17, 1992, Blunt was sworn in as a Board member. His term in office lasted six months, ending in a special-election defeat to a white candidate. The vacant seat to which Blunt was appointed represented a district with the population that was 11% black.

 At the same meeting during which Blunt took the oath of office, the School Board passed a motion of intent to adopt the Police Jury plan. The School Board announced that a public meeting would be held on September 24, 1992, with final action to be taken on the plan on October 1, 1992.

 At the September 24, 1992 meeting, the School Board meeting room was filled to overflowing. Price presented the Board with a petition signed by more than 500 residents of the Parish asking that the Board consider alternative redistricting plans. Additionally, a number of black residents addressed the Board to express their opposition to the proposed Police Jury plan. No one spoke in support of the plan. On October 1, 1992, the School Board unanimously adopted the Police Jury plan. Although he had taken office in time to vote on the plan, Jerome Blunt abstained. One other School Board member, Barbara W. Gray, was absent and did not vote.

 The plan adopted by the School Board pits two pairs of incumbents against each other, leaving two districts with no incumbents. The plan does not distribute the school district's schools evenly among the electoral districts: some have several schools, others have none.

 On January 4, 1993, the School Board submitted its proposed redistricting plan to the Attorney General. On March 5, 1993, the Attorney General requested more information on the redistricting plan, which the School Board provided. On August 30, 1993, the Attorney General interposed a formal objection to the School Board's plan. The Attorney General's letter indicated that, while the identical Police Jury plan had been precleared, the Attorney General objected on the basis of "new information." The Attorney General noted that an alternative plan which showed "that black residents are sufficiently numerous and geographically compact so as to constitute a majority in two single-member districts" and which was preferred by members of the black community had been presented to and rejected by the School Board. The Attorney General further cited the School Board's failure to "accommodate the requests of the black community."

 The Attorney General's objection letter stated that, while the School Board was not required to "adopt any particular plan, it is not free to adopt a plan that unnecessarily limits the opportunity for minority voters to elect their candidates of choice." The Attorney General rejected the School Board's argument that the Louisiana statute concerning splitting precincts was sufficient reason not to create majority-black districts.

 On September 3, 1993, the School Board unanimously voted to seek reconsideration of the objection from the Attorney General. On December 20, 1993, the Attorney General denied the Board's request for reconsideration. The School Board filed this action on July 8, 1994. On April 10 and 11, 1995, this matter was tried before a single judge of this panel, pursuant to an agreement of the parties. The record of those proceedings has been provided to the other two judges on the panel and closing argument was conducted before the entire panel on July 27, 1995.

 In the course of this litigation, defendant-intervenors have prepared two more plans that provide for two majority-black districts. Both plans were prepared by defendant-intervenor's witness, William Cooper. The first plan (Cooper I) provides for one majority-black district in the northwestern corner of the parish and one in Bossier City. The second plan (Cooper II) is not materially different. Neither of these plans was before the School Board when it adopted the Police Jury plan. *fn6"

 II.

 For a political subdivision subject to section 5 to obtain preclearance of a voting change, it must prove that the proposed change "does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color." 43 U.S.C. § 1973c. All parties agree that the "effect" prong of section 5 requires a showing of retrogression. See Beer v. United States, 425 U.S. 130, 141, 47 L. Ed. 2d 629, 96 S. Ct. 1357 (1976). And, all parties agree that the School Board's proposed redistricting will not have a retrogressive effect. The case, then, turns on whether plaintiff can by a preponderance of the evidence demonstrate that the redistricting plan was enacted without discriminatory purpose.

 The School Board claims to have proved that a variety of nondiscriminatory purposes animated the School Board when they adopted the Police Jury plan. The School Board adopted the Police Jury plan because it had been precleared by the Attorney General and would provide an easy way to avoid the controversy that increasingly surrounded the redistricting process. Further, the Police Jury plan required that no precincts be split, avoiding the difficulty and expense that would have accompanied any other plan, and particularly the only other plan the School Board had seen: the NAACP plan. The School Board have throughout the litigation proffered a series of other purposes said to have motivated the decision to adopt the Police Jury plan. Among these were a desire to adhere to traditional districting principles and to avoid racial gerrymandering.

 Defendant asserts that preclearance should be denied for at least one of several reasons. Defendant argues that we should deny preclearance because the School Board's redistricting plan violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. If we conclude that we may not engage in the section 2 inquiry in this section 5 case, defendant contends that we may nonetheless consider the School Board's violation of section 2 as evidence of its discriminatory purpose. Defendant and defendant-intervenors further argue that we should deny preclearance based on "direct" and "indirect" evidence that the School Board acted with a discriminatory purpose.

 III.

 A.

 Defendant and defendant-intervenors maintain that preclearance must be denied if the School Board's plan runs afoul of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. *fn7" We hold, as has every court that has considered the question, that a political subdivision that does not violate either the "effect" or the "purpose" prong of section 5 cannot be denied preclearance because of an alleged section 2 violation.

 Defendant puts before us many arguments for the inclusion of section 2 in this section 5 action. Defendant contends that the statutory language of section 2 and section 5 are in significant part so indistinguishable as to require the importation of section 2 into section 5. It is also argued that the legislative history of section 2 makes clear that Congress, in amending section 2, intended that voting practices be denied section 5 preclearance where those voting practices violate section 2. Defendant finally contends that this court should defer to defendant's own regulations, which interpret section 5 as requiring denial of preclearance where a proposed change violates section 2.

 Defendant has presented many, if not all, of these arguments to other courts and to other panels of this court without any success. Defendant acknowledges these prior cases, but claims that they are distinguishable from the one before us. We, like our predecessors, reject defendant's latest--and by now rather shopworn--effort to squeeze section 2 into section 5.

 We are unconvinced by defendant's casual effort to equate the standards of section 2 and section 5. In its brief, defendant asserts that "there is no meaningful distinction between the plain meaning of the term [sic] 'effect' and 'result.'" [Def. Br. at 28.] To reach this facile conclusion, one must willfully blind oneself to the fact that the term "results" in subsection (a) of section 2 is defined by reference to the language set forth in subsection (b) of section 2. 42 U.S.C. § 1973. None of the language that modifies "results" in section 2 appears in section 5.

 Not only are the two sections drafted with different language, even a cursory review of the case law applying the two statutory sections as written and as applied over the years makes clear that the two sections serve very different functions.

 Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act establishes an extraordinary procedure in our federal system. Before a "covered jurisdiction"--i.e., a State or one of its political subdivisions which is subject to section 5--may change a "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting," it must have the change precleared by either this court or the Attorney General. *fn8" Id. § 1973c. Preclearance in this court comes in the form of "a declaratory judgment that such qualification, prerequisite, standard, practice, or procedure does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in . . . this title." Id. § 1973c.

 The Supreme Court has read the "effect" prong of section 5 to require that "no voting-procedure changes would be made that would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise." Beer v. United States, 425 U.S. 130, 141, 47 L. Ed. 2d 629, 96 S. Ct. 1357 (1976). This "nonretrogression" interpretation has repeatedly been reasserted by the Supreme Court, most recently in Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 132 L. Ed. 2d 762, 115 S. Ct. 2475, 2493 (1995).

  This formulation relates directly to section 5's function. Section 5 was enacted in response to the efforts of jurisdictions to avoid compliance with the Voting Rights Act by adopting new, violative schemes as quickly as the old ones could be struck down. See Beer, 425 U.S. at 140. "'By freezing election procedures in the covered areas unless the changes can be shown to be nondiscriminatory,' section 5 ensures that a plaintiff seeking to challenge an existing voting scheme in federal court under section 2 will have a stationary target to attack." New York v. United States, 874 F. Supp. at 394, 400 (D.D.C. 1994) (quoting Beer, 425 U.S. at 140 (internal citations omitted)).

 Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act uses plainly different language and serves a different function from that of section 5. Under section 2, a "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure" in any political subdivision (not just a covered jurisdiction) may be challenged where it "results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a). Subsection (b) of section 2 provides that a voting procedure has the prohibited result where

 

based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by subsection (a) of this section in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.

 Id. § 1973(b). Subsection (b) contains a different standard from the retrogression standard found by the Supreme Court in section 5; as courts have since recognized, section 2 can be violated without any discriminatory purpose and irrespective of whether the disputed voting practice is better or worse than whatever it is meant to replace. See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 42-47, 92 L. Ed. 2d 25, 106 S. Ct. 2752 (1986). Sections 2 and 5 are substantially different, both on their face and in the manner in which they have been interpreted and applied. See Holder v. Hall, 512 U.S. 874, 129 L. Ed. 2d 687, 114 S. Ct. 2581, 2587 (1994) ("To be sure, if the structure and purpose of section 2 mirrored that of section 5, then the case for interpreting sections 2 and 5 to have the same application in all cases would be convincing. But the two sections differ in structure, purpose, and application." (footnote omitted)).

 Moreover, the two sections differ as to the allocation of the burden of proof. In an action under section 5, the burden of proof is on the political subdivision seeking to enact a voting change. In a section 2 action, on the other hand, the burden of proof is on the party challenging a voting practice. See, e.g., Hall v. Holder, 955 F.2d 1563, 1573-74 (11th Cir. 1992), rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 874, 129 L. Ed. 2d 687, 114 S. Ct. 2581 (1994); Solomon v. Liberty County, 899 F.2d 1012, 1036 (11th Cir. 1990) (en banc) (Tjoflat, J., specially concurring); cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1023, 111 S. Ct. 670, 112 L. Ed. 2d 663 (1991); see also Burton v. Sheheen, 793 F. Supp. 1329, 1351-52 (D.S.C. 1992) (declining to import section 2 into section 5 because, inter alia, of the differing burdens of proof), vacated on other grounds sub nom., Statewide Reapportionment Advisory Comm. v. Theodore, 508 U.S. 968, 125 L. Ed. 2d 656, 113 S. Ct. 2954 (1998); City of Port Arthur v. United States, 517 F. Supp. 987, 1005 n.119 (D.D.C. 1981) (rejecting claim that section 2 action can collaterally estop section 5 action because, inter alia, burdens of proof in each case are different), aff'd, 459 U.S. 159, 74 L. Ed. 2d 334, 103 S. Ct. 530 (1992). That crucial procedural difference strongly suggests the inappropriateness of importing section 2 standards into section 5.

 Defendant's reliance on the legislative history of the amendments to section 2 is similarly unavailing. Where the language of a statutory regime is unambiguous, as it is here, we need not resort to that regime's legislative history. See Connecticut Nat'l Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54, 117 L. Ed. 2d 391, 112 S. Ct. 1146 (1992). Even if the language of sections 2 and 5 did not plainly contemplate two different and independent inquiries, we would not be persuaded that what little legislative history defendant has discovered is sufficient to justify the radical expansion of an already significant encroachment on the prerogatives of States and their subdivisions. Defendant bases its recourse to legislative history in a footnote from the Senate Report that accompanied the 1982 amendments to section 2: "In light of the amendment to Section 2, it is intended that a Section 5 objection also follow if a new voting procedure itself so discriminates as to violate Section 2." S. REP. No. 97-417, 97th Cong., 2d Sess. at 12 n.31 (1982). Defendant also provides quotes to this effect from two sponsors of the 1982 amendments. The footnote appears in a report that accompanied the 1982 overhaul of section 2 that was precipitated by and intended to repudiate Mobile v. Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 64 L. Ed. 2d 47, 100 S. Ct. 1490 (1980). Georgia v. Reno, 881 F. Supp. 7, 13 (D.D.C. 1995). In Mobile, a plurality of the Supreme Court held that proof of discriminatory purpose was required for a section 2 violation. "The [footnote] cited by the defendants was intended merely to emphasize that proof of the requisite unlawful effect is in itself sufficient under either section, regardless of motive." Id. At that time, section 2 was wholly rewritten to provide that no proof of discriminatory purpose is required in actions brought under it; section 5 remained--and remains today--as it had been written in 1975. In the face of the palpably different standards plainly embodied in sections 2 and 5, we think it not plausible that Congress would indicate its desire to raise the hurdle to preclearance by adding the requirements of section 2 to section 5 in a Senate Report footnote. Accord Arizona v. Reno, 887 F. Supp. 318, 321 (D.D.C. 1995). Had Congress plainly expressed this intention, we would be bound to follow. It did not and we are not.

 The Department argues in its brief--although it appeared to retreat from this contention at closing argument--that an additional reason for the court to import section 2 into section 5 is that the Department of Justice has promulgated regulations stating that preclearance under section 5 ought to be denied where the proposed voting change violates section 2. See 28 C.F.R. § 51.55(b)(2) ("In those instances in which the Attorney General concludes that, as proposed, the submitted change is free of discriminatory purpose and retrogressive effect, but also concludes that a bar to implementation of the change is necessary to prevent a clear violation of amended section 2, the Attorney General shall withhold section 5 preclearance."). The Department asserts that "the Attorney General's interpretations of the Act are entitled to great deference." [Def. Br. at 31.] Wherever else the Attorney General's interpretation of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may be entitled to deference, it certainly is not in this court. We will not defer to the Attorney General where, under the statute, an action seeking preclearance may be brought here in the first instance. See Litton Fin. Printing Div. v. NLRB, 501 U.S. 190, 203, 115 L. Ed. 2d 177, 111 S. Ct. 2215 (1991) (citing Local Union 1395, Int'l Brotherhood of Elec. Workers v. NLRB, 254 U.S. App. D.C. 360, 797 F.2d 1027, 1030-31 (D.C. Cir. 1986)); Kelley v. EPA, 304 U.S. App. D.C. 369, 15 F.3d 1100, 1108 (D.C. Cir. 1994) ("Even if an agency enjoys authority to determine such a legal issue administratively, deference is withheld if a private party can bring the issue independently to federal court under a private right of action."), cert. denied sub nom., American Bankers Ass'n v. Kelley, 513 U.S. 1110, 130 L. Ed. 2d 784, 115 S. Ct. 900 (1995); cf. Michigan Citizens for an Indep. Press v. Thornburgh, 276 U.S. App. D.C. 130, 868 F.2d 1285, 1293 (D.C. Cir.), aff'd, 493 U.S. 38, 107 L. Ed. 2d 277, 110 S. Ct. 398 (1989).

 As we have noted, all courts to have considered the question have decided that section 2 may not be imported in section 5. See Texas v. United States, Civ. Act. No. 94-1529, Mem. Op. at 1-3 (D.D.C. July 10, 1995); Arizona v. Reno, Mem. Op. at 6-7; Georgia v. Reno, 881 F. Supp. at 13-14; New York v. United States, 874 F. Supp. 394 (D.D.C. 1994); see also Burton v. Sheheen, 793 F. Supp. at 1350-53. Defendant would distinguish these cases, insisting that the other panels refused to import section 2 into section 5 cases because the only alleged section 2 violation was the addition of judgeships to an already existing, already violative system for the election of judges. *fn9" See Texas; Arizona; Georgia; New York. [Def. Br. at 34.] In this case, defendant contends that the proposed voting change is itself a violation of section 2 and that preclearance must therefore be denied. We are not persuaded. The reasoning used by the prior courts is just as applicable here, regardless of whether a given voting change is styled as an addition to a system that allegedly violates section 2 or a violation of section 2 itself. The statute does not provide for importation of section 2 into section 5, and the particular circumstances of a given section 5 preclearance action can make no difference whatsoever.

 In its discussion of the importation of section 2 into section 5, defendant makes no mention of Miller v. Johnson. In Miller, the Attorney General denied preclearance for the Georgia General Assembly's congressional redistricting plan until it provided for three majority-black districts. 115 S. Ct. at 2489. In finding that the General Assembly had made race the "predominant factor" in its redistricting and thereby violated the Equal Protection Clause, the Court held that the manner in which the Attorney General had employed section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was "insupportable," and that the Attorney General's incorrect interpretation of section 5 could not be a compelling state interest sufficient to survive strict scrutiny. Id. at 2492. Although much of the discussion in Miller concerns the Equal Protection clause, Miller is very much a statutory interpretation case. The Supreme Court, rather than decide the constitutional question of whether compliance with the Voting Rights Act could serve as a compelling state interest, expressly repudiated the Department's interpretation of section 5. Id. at 2490-91. The Court noted that the purpose of section 5 is to avoid retrogression in the position of minority voters, and stated that the "Justice Department's maximization policy seems quite far removed from this purpose." Id. at 2493. "In utilizing § 5 to require States to create majority-minority districts wherever possible, the Department of Justice expanded its authority under the statute beyond what Congress intended and we have upheld." Id. The Supreme Court further observed that it had upheld section 5 in South Carolina v. Katzenbach, 383 U.S. 301, 15 L. Ed. 2d 769, 86 S. Ct. 803 (1966), as a

 

necessary and constitutional response to some states' "extraordinary stratagem[s] of contriving new rules of various kinds for the sole purpose of perpetuating voting discrimination in the face of adverse federal court decrees." . . . But [its] belief in Katzenbach that the federalism costs exacted by § 5 preclearance could be justified by those extraordinary circumstances does not mean they can be justified in the circumstances of this case. *fn10"

 Id. (quoting Katzenbach, 383 U.S. at 335).

 Although Miller makes no explicit reference to the injection of section 2 into section 5, the import of the opinion on this issue is clear. So long as the standard for the "effect" prong of section 5 remains "nonretrogression," the only way for defendant to require the creation of additional majority-black districts before preclearance will be granted is to import the standards of section 2 into the section 5 preclearance process. The very language with which the Attorney General objected to the School Board's redistricting plan makes plain that section 2's standards informed the Attorney General's objection to the School Board's plan. *fn11" Miller, however, makes crystalline what was already clear: section 2 and its standards have no place in a section 5 preclearance action. See also Texas v. United States, Civ. Act. No. 94-1529, Mem. Op. at 2-3.

 In what may by now be a conditioned response, defendant argues that even if we decide that a section 2 action cannot be brought in a section 5 preclearance proceeding, we must still consider evidence of a section 2 violation as evidence of discriminatory purpose under section 5. We again disagree. As we have said, the statutory language sets forth differing standards for the two sections. The line cannot be blurred by allowing a defendant to do indirectly what it cannot do directly. The federalism costs already exacted by section 5 are seriously increased if, under the guise of "purpose" evidence, alleged section 2 violations must be countered by the political subdivision whenever it seeks preclearance. See New York v. United States, 874 F. Supp. at 399 ("Were we to accept defendant's theory that discriminatory intent may always be inferred from the existence of an allegedly discriminatory system, nearly every section 5 preclearance proceeding could potentially be transformed into full-blown section 2 litigation. We think a rule creating such a state of affairs both unwarranted and unwise."). And, Miller forecloses the permitting of section 2 evidence in a section 5 case. As a panel of this court recently noted,

 

the Court [in Miller] reaffirmed that the "purpose" prong of section 5 must be analyzed within the context of section 5's purpose, which "has always been to insure that no voting-procedure changes would be made that would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise."

 Texas v. United States, Civ. Act. No. 94-1529, Mem. Op. at 2 (July 10, 1995) (quoting Miller, 115 S. Ct. at 2493). Given the variety of good reasons not to import section 2 into section 5, we will not permit section 2 evidence to prove discriminatory purpose under section 5. *fn12"

 B.

 The parties agree that the proposed redistricting will not result in retrogression of minority voting strength in Bossier Parish, and thus, that the "effect" prong of Section 5 is not in issue. The statute requires a covered political subdivision seeking a declaratory judgment to prove that the proposed voting change "does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote." 42 U.S.C. § 1973c (emphasis added).

 Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that it did not adopt the Police Jury plan with a discriminatory purpose. Rome v. United States, 446 U.S. 156, 183, 64 L. Ed. 2d 119, 100 S. Ct. 1548 (1980) ("Under [section] 5, the city bears the burden of proving lack of discriminatory purpose and effect."). All courts agree that the entity seeking preclearance has the burden of proving that the proposed change has neither a discriminatory effect nor a discriminatory purpose. How this plays itself out in litigation has been left largely unexplored. But it must be recognized that placing a burden of proving nondiscrimination on the plaintiff is anomalous under our law; the plaintiff is put in the position of proving a negative. *fn13"

 Courts have devised complex burden-shifting regimes for litigation under Title VII and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In an action under Title VII, a plaintiff complaining of discrimination in the employment context must set forth a prima facie case of discrimination. At that point, the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the complained-of employment action was undertaken for other, nondiscriminatory reasons. The burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the employer's offered reasons are pretextual. See, e.g., Johnson v. Transportation Agency, 480 U.S. 616, 628, 94 L. Ed. 2d 615, 107 S. Ct. 1442 (1987); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668, 93 S. Ct. 1817 (1973). Similarly, courts in section 2 cases have held that once the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of vote dilution, the burden shifts to the political subdivision to prove that the voting regime does not result in, or have as its purpose, discrimination. See, e.g., Hall v. Holder, 955 F.2d 1563, 1573-74 (11th Cir. 1992), rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 874, 129 L. Ed. 2d 687, 114 S. Ct. 2581 (1994); Solomon v. Liberty County, 899 F.2d 1012, 1036 (11th Cir. 1990) (en banc) (Tjoflat, J., specially concurring). In actions under both Title VII and section 2, the burden-shifting regimes were enacted in order to alleviate the difficulty for plaintiffs of proving that defendants acted with discriminatory intent. These procedural services thus do not appear appropriate to a section 5 case.

 To be sure, something like a burden shifting must occur in this, as in every other, civil case. Once the Board makes out its prima facie case, it is entitled to preclearance unless its prima facie case is rebutted. See Director, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs, Dept. of Labor v. Greenwich Collieries, 512 U.S. 267, 129 L. Ed. 2d 221, 114 S. Ct. 2251, 2259 (1994) ("When the party with the burden of persuasion establishes a prima facie case supported by 'credible and credited evidence,' it must either be rebutted or accepted as true"). If it is rebutted, then we must weigh the School Board's evidence against that proffered on the other side. If the evidence is equally convincing on either side, the School Board--bearing the risk of nonpersuasion--must lose. See McCain v. Lybrand, 465 U.S. 236, 257, 79 L. Ed. 2d 271, 104 S. Ct. 1037 (1984) (in the preclearance process, "the burden of proof (the risk of non-persuasion) is placed upon the covered jurisdiction"). If, however, the School Board's evidence is more persuasive than the evidence proffered against it, the School Board is entitled to preclearance. To make out a prima facie case for preclearance, the School Board must demonstrate that the proposed change will have no retrogressive effect, and that the change was undertaken without a discriminatory purpose. Proof of nondiscriminatory purpose must include "legitimate reasons" for settling on the given change. Richmond v. United States, 422 U.S. 358, 375, 45 L. Ed. 2d 245, 95 S. Ct. 2296 (1975). When the prima facie case has been made by the School Board, defendant must offer evidence in rebuttal in order to prevent preclearance. *fn14"

  The School Board has offered a host of non-discriminatory reasons for adopting the Police Jury plan. We are satisfied that at least two of these are "legitimate, nondiscriminatory motives," New York, 874 F. Supp. at 400. *fn15"

 The Police Jury plan offered the twin attractions of guaranteed preclearance and easy implementation (because no precinct lines would need redrawing). The School Board did not like the Police Jury plan when it was first presented to them, and there were certainly reasons not to. The Police Jury plan wreaked havoc with the incumbencies of four of the School Board members and was not drawn with school locations in mind. When, however, the redistricting process began to cause agitation within the black community, and when it became obvious that any plan adopted by the School Board would give rise to controversy and division (and we find that by the time the NAACP's redistricting plan had been presented to the School Board, the Board could very reasonably foresee this), the Police Jury plan became, as Board member Myrick described it, "expedient." Any port will do in a storm, and when the clouds over the School Board's redistricting process began to grow ominous, the only close port was the already precleared Police Jury plan.

 Defendant and defendant-intervenors contend that the Police Jury plan itself was precleared by the Attorney General only because relevant information was withheld from the Attorney General. In order for this to be evidence that the School Board adopted the Police Jury plan with an impermissible purpose, the School Board would have to have known that such information had been withheld from the Attorney General, and that but for that withholding, the Attorney General would not have precleared the Police Jury plan. We know of no evidence even suggesting the School Board had any knowledge that the Police Jury plan had been precleared illegitimately if in fact it had been.

 Further, the Police Jury plan would require no splitting of precincts. While the evidence on the effect of a school board's efforts to redistrict in a way that splits precincts is confused, what is uncontroverted is that changing precincts is neither guaranteed nor free. The NAACP plan presented to the School Board--the only other plan available to the school board at the time--split at least 46 precincts. Defendant-intervenors' witness, David Creed, who testified that precinct-splitting was quite common and that he himself had drawn several redistricting plans that split precincts, [D-I Exh. F at 2-3], had never drawn a plan that split more than eight precincts. [Tr. II, at 119.] Splitting precincts would have required assistance from the Police Jury--a body that had rebuffed the School Board's earlier overtures for coordinated efforts. And, the splitting of precincts would have cost money. Evidence was presented that each precinct split would cost $ 850, and even if this number was substantially overstated, no one suggests that precincts can be split for free. When the School Board began the redistricting process, it likely anticipated the necessity of splitting some precincts. It hired the Police Jury's cartographer with the expectation that he would spend a substantial amount of time on the project, and it was given maps of the then-existing precincts and told it would have to work with the Police Jury with respect to the precincts. Nonetheless, the School Board entirely reasonably could have, when faced with the NAACP's plan, arrived quickly at the conclusion that zero precinct splits was significantly more desirable than 46.

 Moreover, in the midst of the controversy, at the behest of the black community, and over the "bitter opposition" of some white constituents, the School Board itself appointed a black member to its only vacant seat in time to participate in and vote on the adoption of the Police Jury plan. Defendant tries to minimize this fact by noting that the vote was only six to five, that Jerome Blunt was appointed to a district that was 89% white, and that Blunt promptly lost in a special election six months later. That Blunt was appointed by a bare majority tells us nothing more than that at least a majority of the white Board members were responsive to the black community and were not opposed to black representation on the School Board. That Blunt lost his next election cannot, we think, be fairly laid at the School Board's door, particularly given that the district to which he was appointed--again, at the behest of George Price and others--was the only one with a vacancy. This appointment, particularly when its timing and context are considered, indicates that a majority of the white Board members not only were not opposed to black representation on the School Board, but affirmatively brought it about for the first time in Parish history.

 The School Board thus has presented a prima facie case for preclearance. Defendant seeks to rebut this case by presenting what it styles as "direct" and "indirect" evidence of discriminatory purpose.

 The "direct" evidence presented by defendant and defendant-intervenors consists of the alleged statements of three School Board members. We conclude that none of the statements attributed to these Board members, if they were in fact made, show that the Board acted with a discriminatory motivation. The first statement offered by defendant is perhaps the most troubling. S.P. Davis, an attorney representing a plaintiff-intervenor in the Lemon suit, testified that Board member Henry Burns told him that, while Burns himself had no opposition to the idea, other members of the Board were "hostile to black representation on the School Board." *fn16" Plaintiffs did not cross-examine Davis on this point, so we do not know more specifically what Davis understood Burns to mean by "black representation." The phrase is subject to at least two interpretations. We would be troubled indeed if Burns was referring to hostility on the part of other Board members to the presence of black persons as members of the School Board. But, because at least six of the School Board members proved their lack of hostility to this sort of black representation by appointing a black Board member, we do not believe that Burns meant this. If Burns meant, by "black representation," that other members of the School Board were opposed to the intentional drawing of majority-black districts in order to ensure black representation on the Board, that is hardly an indication of discriminatory purpose unless section 5 imposes an affirmative obligation to draw additional majority-black districts. There are a host of entirely legitimate reasons to oppose this sort of district-drawing. A Board member could, for example, be opposed to districts that split numerous precincts or that violated traditional districting principles.

 Board member Barry Musgrove's alleged statement to George Price that, while Musgrove was not personally opposed, other Board members were hostile to drawing majority-black districts is also relied upon by defendant. Musgrove denies making this statement, [Tr. I, at 56.], but we will assume for this analysis that he said what Price says he said. But again, this statement is not evidence of discriminatory purpose. A Board member could have any number of perfectly legitimate reasons to oppose the drawing of majority-black districts, particularly in the manner of the NAACP plan. Without more than Price's testimony, we will not assume the worst and credit the unnamed School Board members with an untoward motivation when the statement lends itself just as easily to a nondiscriminatory interpretation.

 The last Board-member statement emphasized by defendant is that of Thomas Myrick, as testified to by intervenors George Price and Thelma Harry, that Myrick would not let his seat be taken. But, we do not attribute a racist motivation to the perfectly understandable expression by an incumbent of the strong desire not to have his district so changed that his constituency is obliterated. Even if Myrick's statement was an indication of a discriminatory purpose on Myrick's part--which we do not think it was--on this record it would be inappropriate to attribute such a purpose to the other nine members of the Board who voted to adopt the Police Jury plan. *fn17"

 The "indirect" evidence defendant most heavily relies upon is the "sequence of events leading to the school board's adoption of the police jury plan." [Def. Br. at 15.] Defendant argues that these events raise an inference that the plan was adopted with a discriminatory purpose. Defendant notes that when the Police Jury plan was first presented to the Board, the Board declined to adopt it, in part because it pitted two pairs of incumbents against each other. Defendant also emphasizes the Board's unwillingness to permit participation in the redistricting process by George Price and the NAACP; most of the redistricting work done by the Board was not done publicly. And, defendant argues, and regards as the nail in the School Board's coffin, that the Board "rushed to adopt the police jury plan" only after it "was confronted with the NAACP's plan." [Def. Br. at 18.] If the only evidence before us were that summarized here and relied on so heavily by the defendant, we would still have difficulty following its inferential leap. We think that assuming that the quick rejection of the NAACP plan is probative of a discriminatory purpose requires at least that the Board have regarded the NAACP plan as a plausible plan. We have no evidence that the plan was, as an objective matter, plausible (after all, it split 46 precincts and is no longer seriously put forward by either defendant or defendant-intervenors). And, we have no indication that the School Board itself thought the plan plausible. The existence of the NAACP plan demonstrated to the Board that its efforts to redistrict would be subject to exacting review and vociferous criticism. The swift selection of the only plan around that bore the imprimatur of the Attorney General resembles not a brazen stroke in the name of racist redistricting but an understandable, if not necessarily laudable, retreat from a protracted and highly charged public battle. In light of this, and mindful of the Board's demonstrable willingness to ensure black representation on the Board (the creation of a majority-black district would not necessarily lead to the election of a black Board member, while the appointment of a black Board member unavoidably would), we think defendant and defendant-intervenors' inference is unjustified. *fn18"

 

* * * *

 At bottom, defendant's argument that the School Board's adoption of the Police Jury plan rather than something like the NAACP plan runs afoul of section 5 is indistinguishable from an argument rejected by the Court in Miller v. Johnson. Here, defendant argues that the School Board has failed to provide an adequate reason explaining why it declined to act on a proposal featuring two majority-black districts. In Miller, the "key to the Government's position . . . is and always has been that Georgia failed to proffer a nondiscriminatory purpose for its refusal in the first two submissions to take the steps necessary to create a third majority-minority district." 115 S. Ct. at 2492. The Supreme Court described this position as "insupportable" and stated that Georgia's adherence to "other districting principles instead of creating as many majority-minority districts as possible does not support an inference that the plan 'so discriminates on the basis of race or color as to violate the Constitution,' and thus cannot provide any basis under § 5 for the Justice Department's objection." Id. at 2492 (citations omitted). We note that, in Miller, the Department of Justice denied preclearance until the Georgia Assembly had drawn three of 11 (or 27%) black majority districts in a State with a population that is 27% black. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that the Department of Justice was engaged improperly in "black-maximization" on a theory of section 5 that the Supreme Court rejected. Id. Here, defendant denied preclearance noting that the Board had adopted the Police Jury plan when it had before it a plan that provided for two of 12 (or 18%) majority-black districts in a parish with a voting-age population that is 17.6% black. The key to defendant's position in this case, similarly, is that the School Board has not provided an adequate explanation for adopting the precleared Police Jury plan when it had before it the NAACP plan. As Miller makes clear, the adoption of one nonretrogressive plan rather than another nonretrogressive plan that contains more majority-black districts cannot by itself give rise to the inference of discriminatory purpose. Defendant here, as it did in Miller, pursues a theory the result of which is that no political subdivision presented with a plan that provides for x number of majority-black districts can ever adequately explain its reasons for adopting a plan that provides for x minus n majority-black districts. The Miller Court rejected this theory of section 5, and we will not resuscitate it here.

 Accordingly, we grant plaintiff Bossier Parish School Board the requested declaratory judgment.

 LAURENCE H. SILBERMAN

 UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE

 CHARLES R. RICHEY

 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 SEE APPENDIX

 SEE APPENDIX

 For purposes of distribution, the oversized reproductions of the Police Jury plan and the NAACP plan have been omitted. They are available for review in the clerk's office for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and will be published along with the opinions in West's Federal Supplement.

 ORDER

 In this action, plaintiff Bossier Parish School Board requests preclearance of its election plan adopted on October 1, 1992. In accordance with the Opinion by the Court of even date herewith, and for the reasons set forth therein, it is by this three-judge court, this 2nd day of November, 1995,

 ORDERED that the plaintiff Bossier Parish School Board shall be, and hereby is, given preclearance for its election plan adopted on October 1, 1992, and shall have a declaratory judgment to that effect.

 LAURENCE H. SILBERMAN

 UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE

 CHARLES R. RICHEY

 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE


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