Gerrymandering/To Kill A Mocking Bird Essay, Research Paper
To Kill A Mockingbird
March 5, 2000
GOMILLION ET AL. v. LIGHTFOOT, MAYOR OF TUSKEGEE, ET AL.
The unprecedented Gomillion v. Lightfoot came to the Supreme Court because the borders of Tuskegee, Alabama were redrawn. They went from a square shape to an irregular one to exclude black neighborhoods, on the outer edges of the city, violating the 15th Amendment, denying them a vote because of race. This practice is also known as racial gerrymandering. On October 18 and 19 of 1960 this case was argued. The decision was made on November 14, 1960.
The case was pulled up from the Fifth Circuit of Appellate Courts. The Plaintiff, the African American citizens of Tuskegee, Alabama were accusing the Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, Lightfoot, denying constitutional rights to the citizens. The case was ruled on just after another very important racial case, Barker v. Carr. This case furthered the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas.
The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the ruling from the Fifth Circuit of Appellate Courts. The Appellate Court ruled that the State could look out for its best interest. The court applied this past ruling from other cases to rule that the municipality could look out for its best interest. The Supreme Court, however, felt that the means do not justify the ends. Using a Constitutional procedure to achieve an Unconstitutional result is unconstitutional.
Whittaker, wrote a concurring opinion agreeing that the border move was Unconstitutional, but under the fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause because the state was redrawing borders to the black citizen’s detriment. He felt that voting was not denied because of race. In fact, border changes occur all the time and the blacks still had a right to vote for any candidate or position that falls in their area. He felt that the re-bordering was a segregation attempt illegal under the precedent of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas.
Justice Frankfurter expressed his opinion quite clearly when he stated:
….that Act 140 is unconstitutional, and for an injunction to restrain the Mayor and officers of Tuskegee and the officials of Macon County, Alabama, from enforcing the Act against them and other Negroes [sic] similarly situated. Petitioners’ claim is that enforcement of the statute, which alters the shape of Tuskegee from a square to an uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure, will constitute a discrimination against them in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and will deny them the right to vote in defiance of the Fifteenth Amendment.
His opinion also covered the concern of Federalism. The question was, Why should a federal court have jurisdiction over a state and municipality business? Frankfurter answered with, “When a state exercises power wholly within the domain of state interest, it is insulated from federal judicial review, but such insulation is not carried over when state power is used as an instrument for circumventing a federally protected right.” In fact, Frankfurter, in his scathing opinion, accused blatantly that the Appellate Courts and lower courts were racist. This hurt the credibility of the lower courts.
This historic case set the precedent for racial gerrymandering across the nation. Mayors and legislators in every county, especially in the south, now had the Federal Government and the Department of Justice watching their every move. Hatred, ignorance, and racism may play a part in some peoples decisions, the 200 year old document is as blind as Justice herself. Atticus said it best, “All men are equal in the Court of Law.”