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GILES v. ASHCROFT

April 8, 2002

JIMMY D. GILES, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION
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 Amended Complaint.
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.

BACKGROUND

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.
2. The Amended Complaint
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 ¶ 27.
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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