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POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS v. CITY OF CHICAGO

July 24, 2002

POLISH AMERICAN CONGRESS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milton I. Shadur, Senior United States District Judge

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Polish American Congress and seven individuals (collectively "Plaintiffs") bring this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against (1) City of Chicago, (2) Richard F. Mell in his official capacity as Chairman of the Chicago City Council Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics, (3) Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners and (4) Langdon D. Neal, in his official capacity as Chairman of Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners (for convenience, defendants are collectively referred to as "Chicago," treated as a singular noun).*fn1 Plaintiffs allege that Chicago's ward redistricting map adopted in December 2001 violates their rights under the First,*fn2 Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Act," 42 U.S.C. § 1973 to 1973p).*fn3

Chicago has filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' entire claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. ("Rule") 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order, Chicago's motion is granted in part and' denied in part.

Applicable Legal Standards

When considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor (Johnson v. Rivera, 272 F.3d 519, 520 (7th Cir. 2001)). No claim will be dismissed unless "it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations" (Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984), quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

When as here a Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenges the substance (and not the sufficiency) of a complaint's jurisdictional allegations, the court may entertain affidavits and other competent evidence, weighing any conflicts (Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993) (per curiam)) — that respect plaintiffs have the burden of supporting their jurisdictional assertions by competent proof. By contrast, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion restricts the parties and court to the contents of the complaint itself.*fn4

Facts

Every ten years the United States Census Bureau conducts a national census. Under Illinois law the Chicago City Council is authorized to redistrict Chicago's 50 wards*fn5 by ordinance one year after each census (65 ILCS 20/21-22).

In late 2001 the City Council began to consider ward redistricting plans based on the results of the 2000 census. On November 28 it announced a proposed redistricting map that incorporated suggestions made by members of the Council's African-American and Latino caucuses (¶¶ 22-23). Members of those caucuses were primarily motivated to maximize the number of Chicago's majority-minority wards (¶ 23). That proposed map did not take into account census information about voting age population or ancestry, because those figures were not yet available (¶ 24).*fn6 At a December 14 public hearing three different citizen groups — including a Polish ethnic coalition — presented alternative redistricting plans, none of which was seriously considered by Chicago (¶ 25). On December 19 the City Council adopted new ward redistricting ordinances based on the November 28 map (¶ 26).

This action concerns northwest Chicago's 30th Ward, which under the redistricting ordinance surrounds the 31st Ward on three sides and at points is as narrow as two city blocks (¶¶ 28, 32). Year 2000 census figures show the population of northwest Chicago to be 55% Latino, while at the time of the 1990 census that area was also home to 184,614 people (but see n. 6) of single and multiple Polish ancestry (¶ 29).*fn7 Many members of the Polish ethnic community do not speak, or have a limited understanding of, the English language (¶ 35).

Polish American Congress is a not-for-profit corporation that represents the interests of Polish-Americans by promoting civic, educational and cultural programs (¶ 5). Each of the seven individual plaintiffs is a registered voter who either previously resided or now resides in the 30th Ward (¶¶ 6-12). Six of the seven individuals are of Polish or combined Polish-German ethnicity (n.). In addition, plaintiff Michael Wojcik ("Wojcik") is the current 30th Ward alderman and sues in both his personal and his official capacity (¶ 12). Plaintiffs claim to represent the Polish community of interest for the purposes of this action (¶ 13).

Plaintiffs oppose the new redistricting map as it relates to the 30th Ward because the new ward, boundaries splinter the Polish ethnic community of interest, previously contained in two wards, into four different wards (¶¶ 28, 31). According to Plaintiffs, Chicago designed the new ward boundaries for the sole purpose of creating a Latino majority in the 30th Ward (¶ 34). That focus on race injures the Polish community of interest by minimizing the representation of that community's needs on the City Council (id.). Other harms inflicted on the community by redistricting' include (1) the removal of certain churches and businesses from the 30th Ward, (2) potential cuts to certain ward services (including Polish-language translation) and (3) the difficulty that Wojcik will face in being re-elected and thereby representing the Polish community's interests in the City Council (¶¶ 37-40). Plaintiffs have produced an alternative map establishing boundaries for the 30th Ward that they believe will redress those injuries (¶ 41), and they now request declaratory and injunctive relief.

Jurisdiction

Chicago first argues that this Court has no jurisdiction to hear this action under Rule 12(b)(1) because Plaintiffs lack standing and the claims are unripe. To establish standing, plaintiffs must generally show (1) that they have suffered an injury in fact, (2) that there is a causal connection between that injury and the challenged conduct and (3) that it is likely — as opposed to merely speculative — that ...


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