LAWYER v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
95-2024
Appellee 
Department of Justice
Appellant 
Lawyer
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the state appellees)
(Argued the cause for the appellant)
(Department of Justice, argued the cause for the federal appellee)
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Facts of the Case 

Based on the 1990 census, the Florida Legislature adopted a reapportionment plan for State Senate and House districts. After the Justice Department refused to preclear the plan and it appeared as if the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker would not convene a session, the Florida Supreme Court revised the redistricting plan itself. In 1995, C. Martin Lawyer, III, and other residents filed suit against state and federal parties, alleging that his district, Senate District 21, violated the Equal Protection Clause. The District permitted the State Senate and House of Representatives to intervene and ultimately, all the parties, but Lawyer, agreed to a settlement that revised District 21 under a new plan. The District Court rejected Lawyer's argument that the court had to find the original reapportionment plan unconstitutional, because race seemingly determined District 21's contours, before the settlement could be approved. The court approved the settlement.

Question 

Did the District Court err in approving a remedial plan for the creation of a Florida state Senate district, which allegedly violated the Equal Protection Clause?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Department of Justice, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

No. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by David H. Souter, the Court held that the State exercised the choice to which it was entitled under our cases, that Lawyer had no right to block the settlement, and that he failed to point out any unconstitutionality in the proposed plan. The Court found that Lawyer's agreement to the provisional settlement did not require the District Court to adjudicate the constitutionality of the plan before approving the settlement and that the court, in redrawing the district, did not subordinate Florida's traditional districting principles to race. Justice Souter wrote that "the evidence amply supports the trial court's views that race did not predominate over Florida's traditional districting principles....[Lawyer] has provided nothing that calls that conclusion into question, much less that points to any clear error." Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas, dissented.

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LAWYER v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_2024>.
LAWYER v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_2024 (last visited October 20, 2014).
"LAWYER v. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1996/1996_95_2024.