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GILES v. ASHCROFT
April 8, 2002
JIMMY D. GILES, PLAINTIFF,
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates, United States District Judge.
This case arises from redistricting efforts in the State of
Mississippi, which loses one congressional seat as a result of the 2000
Census. Plaintiff Jimmy D. Giles ("Giles") is a resident of Rankin
County, Mississippi, who is running as an independent candidate in the
upcoming November 2002 Congressional election. He filed an Amended
Complaint (hereinafter "Complaint") against defendant Attorney General
John Ashcroft on March 8, 2002, challenging the constitutionality of
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c (1994)
(hereinafter "Section 5"), and seeking to prevent enforcement of the
congressional redistricting plan adopted on February 26, 2002, by a
three-judge federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi ("the
federal court redistricting plan"). Giles requests that this Court order
that Mississippi's congressional delegation be chosen by statewide
at-large elections pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-1039.
Presently before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's
The Court concludes that Giles does not have standing to raise claims
challenging Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and that those claims
must also be dismissed on grounds of issue preclusion because a federal
court in Mississippi has already ruled that Giles does not have standing
to raise such claims. See Giles v. Ashcroft, No. 3:01CV392LN (S.D.Miss.
Sept. 27, 2001). His challenge to the federal court redistricting plan
must also be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, including the absence of
standing to bring that claim.
1. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act
In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act "to rid the country of
racial discrimination in voting." South Carolina v. Katzenbach,
383 U.S. 301, 315 (1966). Section 5 is a critical part of the Act,
designed "to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the
perpetrators of evil to its victim, by freezing election procedures in the
covered areas unless the changes can be shown to be non-discriminatory."
Reno v. Bossier Parish Sch. Bd., 520 U.S. 471, 477 (1997) (quoting Beer
v. United States, 425 U.S. 130, 140 (1976)). Section 5 requires covered
jurisdictions to obtain an advance determination — known as
"preclearance" — from either the Attorney General or a three-judge
District Court for the District of Columbia that proposed changes in
voting practices and procedures are not racially discriminatory before
those changes can be implemented. Section 5 is a severe process aimed at
preventing the implementation of changes in voting practices and
procedures which in purpose or effect would "worsen the position of
minority voters." Reno v. Bossier Parish Sch. Bd., 528 U.S. 320, 324
(2000); Allen v.
State Bd. of Elections, 393 U.S. 544, 556 (1969). Nine states, including
Mississippi, are "covered jurisdictions" within Section 5.
Giles maintains that Mississippi no longer requires coverage under
Section 5 because the vestiges of racism — such as poll taxes,
white primaries, or literacy tests — no longer exist in the modern
Mississippi of today. Complaint at ¶¶ 8-9. He alleges that the
"[c]onditions of the 1960s not only represent a different time and a
different climate of public opinion but also were the result of the
attitudes and represent actions of a different generation." Id. at
¶ 11. It is his view that "[t]o continue the stigma of discrimination
and repression which rightly attached to the public and legislature of
that time and apply it to young Mississippians is unconscionable." Id.
Giles claims that Section 5 is unconstitutional because it only applies
to certain selected states, and hence "`non-covered' jurisdictions have
more rights and are treated differently than `covered' citizens." Id. at
¶¶ 12, 15, 42-43. Giles argues that because Mississippi is a covered
jurisdiction under Section 5, Congress continues to "adjudicate [him]
guilty or innocent as if a prisoner up for parole," thus amounting to an
unconstitutional bill of attainder. Id. at ¶ 16. In sum, Giles
contends that he "has experienced and continues to experience a bad
reputation because of continued enforcement of Section 5 which falsely
confirms the impression in the minds of others that he would act to harm
his fellow black citizens." Id. at ¶ 44.
The Amended Complaint also challenges the redistricting plan adopted by
a three-judge court in Mississippi. Giles alleges that "[t]he federal
court plan promotes political apartheid by drawing a gerrymandered
district (2nd Congressional District) based too much on race." Id. at
¶ 34. He contends that "District Two (2) is a gerrymandered district
which adversely affects the other three (3) districts." Id. at ¶
3. Recent Redistricting Litigation in Mississippi
On December 21, 2001, a state court in Hinds County, Mississippi,
adopted its own redistricting plan to be implemented upon preclearance
from the Justice Department pursuant to Section 5. Branch v. Clark, No.
G-2001-1777 W/4. Three citizens of Mississippi also brought suit in
federal court in the Southern District of Mississippi late in 2001,
seeking to enjoin the state court plan and asking the federal court to
adopt a redistricting plan for the state. Smith v. Clark, No.
3:01CV855WS. Giles sought to intervene in the Smith case on January 9,
2002, but his motion was denied the next day. On February 19, 2002, the
three-judge court in Smith struck down the state court redistricting plan
in Branch, and on February 26, 2002, the federal court adopted its own
redistricting plan for Mississippi.*fn1 One of the plaintiffs in Branch
v. Clark sought to stay the federal court's ruling in Smith v. Clark
until the United States Supreme Court could hear an appeal, but that
request was denied on March 1, 2002, and the appeal remains pending
before the Supreme Court at this time. After the three-judge court in
Smith v. Clark adopted the federal court redistricting
plan, Giles filed his Amended Complaint in this Court on March 8, 2002 to
challenge that plan.
This is not, however, the first time Giles has sued the Attorney
General challenging the enforcement of Section 5 in Mississippi. On May
21, 2001 — ten months before he filed his Amended Complaint here
— Giles sued in the Southern District of Mississippi challenging
the constitutionality of Section 5 and raising many of the points he
makes here. See Giles v. Ashcroft, No. 3:01CV392LN (S.D.Miss. Sept. 27,
2001) ("Mississippi suit"). Both complaints allege that because
Mississippi remains a covered jurisdiction under Section 5, Giles is
treated differently from those who live in jurisdictions that are not
covered. Both complaints also allege that Giles suffers economically,
and both speak of degraded citizenship and negative stereotypes arising
out of the enforcement of Section 5 in Mississippi. Indeed, the central
contention in each complaint is that in modern-day Mississippi "there is
no longer a basis for the [Voting Rights] Act."
On September 27, 2001, Chief Judge Tom S. Lee granted the Attorney
General's motion to dismiss the Mississippi suit and denied Giles's
subsequent motion to transfer the case to this Court.*fn2 Judge Lee
found that "the District Court for the District of Columbia did not have
jurisdiction over plaintiff's suit when it was filed, [thus] making
transfer inappropriate." Id. at 4. Moreover, Judge Lee found that
jurisdiction was not proper "in any district court ...
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