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HULME v. MADISON COUNTY

November 28, 2001

ROBERT HULME, THE MADISON COUNTY REPUBLICAN CENTRAL COMMITTEE, HOMER HENKE, STEVEN STOBBS, WILLIAM MEYER, EUGENE FRIZZO, AND JUDY KUHN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, A BODY POLITIC CORPORATE, AND MARK A. VON NIDA, CLERK OF THE COUNTY OF MADISON, ALL IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Herndon, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Introduction

As happens with each new decade, the year 2000 and its nationwide census brought about the need to reapportion the political subdivisions in the State of Illinois. Reapportionment induces a great deal of tension as political parties try to hold onto seats they have acquired in the preceding decade. Individual officeholders hope to retain a constituency that will re-elect them. Political considerations naturally abound. Although "politics" is a dirty word in some quarters, the presence of politics in reapportionment need not constitute a negative nor unacceptable factor. For instance, it may be politically expedient, and in the best interest of the electorate, to maintain the integrity of a district that is primarily minority in makeup. Likewise, it is common sense that an incumbent would not wish to be placed in a district that would pit him against another incumbent. Also, a representative's familiarity with a district is likely to benefit the citizens residing in that district. Ideally, the only politics that should ultimately prevail is that which assures that elected representatives act in the best interest of all of the people. Democrats, it must be remembered, are not elected to represent Democrats exclusively any more than Republicans are elected to represent Republicans exclusively. The gathering of ideas for the process of reapportionment should be an inclusive process, not an exclusive process. Some degree of bipartisanship is ideal. At the very least, as the Court will explore, the reapportionment process should be guided by the mandates of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Illinois statute which sets forth the specific requirements for reapportionment.
This brings us to the 2001 County Board redistricting process in Madison County, Illinois. That process demonstrated the worst of politics. The process fell so far short of representing the electorate that it seems the citizens of Madison County were not so much as an afterthought. Rather than the collective work of five committee members or twenty nine board members, the 2001 apportionment plan was the creation of one Board member, Wayne Bridgewater, the Chair of the assigned Committee, influenced by another Board member, who was not on the Committee. Far from some semblance of bipartisanship, the reapportionment process in Madison County was characterized by threats, coercion, bullying, and a skewed view of the law. The resulting County Board districts, and the map which exemplifies them, contravene the United States Constitution and certain statutes of the State of Illinois.

As a result, Plaintiffs filed a three-count Complaint on July 13, 2001 against Madison county, the Clerk of Madison County, Mark Von Nida, the Illinois State Board of Elections and several of its members (Doc. 1).*fn1 On August 22, 2001, upon motion by the Plaintiffs, the Court dismissed Count III of the original complaint and granted Plaintiffs leave to file an amended complaint (Doc. 18). In Count I of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the reapportionment plan adopted by the Madison County Board on June 20, 2001 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it is not consistent with the required principle of "one person, one vote" (Doc. 19). In Count II, Plaintiffs allege that the reapportionment plan violates the Illinois Counties Code, 55 ILCS 5/2-3003, which sets forth the specific guidelines a county board must follow in adopting an apportionment plan (Doc. 19). Federal jurisdiction is properly grounded in 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3)*fn2 and in this Court's supplemental jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. Procedural Vehicle of Resolution

On November 2, 2001, the parties followed a curious path in litigating this case and filed cross motions for summary judgment or, in the alternative, motions for judgment on partial findings pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 52(c) (Docs. 30 & 35). On November 6, 2001, the Court held a hearing on the motions (Doc. 41).

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56, summary judgment may be granted only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Because the Court finds that there are clearly genuine issues of material fact that would preclude summary judgment for either party, the Court will proceed under Rule 52(c).

B. Rule 52(c) Standard

FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 52(c) provides:
(c) Judgment on Partial Findings. If during a trial without a jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and the court finds against the party on that issue, the court may enter judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue . . . . Such a judgment shall be supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by subdivision (a) of this rule.

The Notes of the Advisory Committee for the 1991 Amendment to Rule 52 state, in relevant part:

Subdivision (c) is added. . . . It authorizes the court to enter judgment at any time that it can appropriately make a dispositive finding of fact on the evidence. The new subdivision replaces part of Rule 41(b), which formerly authorized a dismissal at the close of the plaintiff's case if the plaintiff had failed to carry an essential burden of proof.
Therefore, the Court will apply the standard previously articulated for an involuntary dismissal under Rule 41(b). "[T]he court must take an unbiased view of all the evidence, direct and circumstantial, and accord it such weight as the court believes it is entitled to receive." Sanders v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 707 F.2d 969, 971 (7th Cir. 1983) (discussing Rule 41(b)). Pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 52(c) this opinion shall serve as the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

III. Analysis

A. Count I — Equal Protection

Defendants argue that because the apportionment plan adopted by the Madison County Board has a total population deviation under 10%, it is presumptively valid and, therefore, Plaintiffs cannot prove a violation of Equal Protection. Plaintiffs, however, contend that although the total population deviation of the apportionment plan adopted by the Board is less than 10%, it violates the Equal Protection Clause because the process by which the plan was adopted was tainted with arbitrariness and discrimination.
In Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), the United States Supreme Court held that "the Equal Protection Clause requires that a State make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts, in both houses of its legislature, as nearly of equal population as practicable." Id. at 577. Extending its holding in Reynolds to local governmental units, the Supreme Court in Avery v. Midland County, Texas, 390 U.S. 474 (1968), held that the Equal Protection Clause "permits no substantial variation from equal population in drawing districts for units of local governments having general governmental powers over the entire geographic area served by the body." Id. at 484-85. In Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695 (1964), decided the same day as Reynolds, the Supreme Court rejected the district court's attempt to establish a fixed mathematical formula for evaluating the constitutional validity of an apportionment plan. The Roman Court stated:
[T]he problem does not lend itself to any such uniform formula, and it is neither practicable nor desirable to establish rigid mathematical standards for evaluating the constitutional validity of a state apportionment scheme under the Equal Protection Clause. Rather, the proper judicial approach is to ascertain whether, under the particular circumstances existing in the individual State whose legislative apportionment is at issue, there has been a faithful adherence to a plan of population-based representation, with ...

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