Gomillion v. Lightfoot, Mayor Of Tuskegee
Supreme Court of The United States
October 18-19, 1960, Argued
November 14, 1960, Decided
Procedural Posture: Plaintiff black residents petitioned for a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which dismissed their challenge to a statute redefining the boundaries of defendant city. The residents sought a declaratory judgment that the measure was unconstitutional and an injunction to restrain enforcement of the act because it denied them their right to vote in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment.
Overview: The complaint alleged that the statute was a device to disenfranchise black citizens. In response, the city invoked generalities in expressing the state’s unrestricted power to establish, destroy, or reorganize by contraction or expansion its political subdivisions, to writ, cities, counties, and other local units. At the pleading stage, the court was not concerned with the truth of the allegations. In reversing the decision, it found that the allegations, if proven, would establish that the statute was not an ordinary geographic redistricting measure even within familiar abuses of gerrymandering. It the allegations upon a trial remained uncontradicted or unqualified, the conclusion would establish for all practical purposes that the legislation was solely concerned with segregation white and colored voters by fencing black citizens out of town so as to deprive them of their pre-existing municipal vote. The state’s power was limited by the United States Constitution.
Outcome: The court reversed the decision and remanded the matter for further proceedings.
Summary: Plaintiffs, Negro citizens of Alabama, who were, at the time of the enactment of a statute redefining the boundaries of the City of Tuskegee, residents of the city, brought the present action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama for a declaratory judgment that the statute was unconstitutional, and for an