Justice Souter, delivered the opinion of the Court.
Appellant was one of several plaintiffs in this suit challenging the configuration of a Florida legislative district under the Equal Protection Clause. All parties except appellant reached a provisional settlement agreement and, after a fairness hearing, a three-judge District Court approved the remedial districting plan proposed in the agreement. Appellant claims that the District Court acted without giving the State an adequate opportunity to make its own redistricting choice by approving the remedial plan without first adjudicating the legality of the original plan, that the court had no authority to approve any settlement over his objection, and that the remedial plan violates the Constitution. We hold that the State exercised the choice to which it was entitled under our cases, that appellant has no right to block the settlement, and that he has failed to point up any unconstitutionality in the plan proposed.
After the 1990 Decennial Census, the Florida Legislature adopted a reapportionment plan for Florida's 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts. Following the procedure for
Since five Florida counties, including Hillsborough County where the city of Tampa is located, are covered jurisdictions under § 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 79 Stat. 439, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 1973c, see 28 CFR pt. 51, App. (1996); see also Johnson, supra, at 1001, n. 2, the state attorney general submitted the redistricting plan to the United States Department of Justice for preclearance. On June 16, 1992, the Department declined to preclear the proposed State Senate districts, on the grounds that the redistricting plan divided "politically cohesive minority populations" in the Hillsborough County area and failed to create a majority-minority district in that region. Letter from Assistant United States Attorney General John Dunne to Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butter worth (quoted in In re Constitutionality of Senate Joint Resolution 2G, supra, at 547 (Shaw, C. J., specially concurring)); see also De Grandy v. Wetherell, 815 F.Supp. 1550, 1556 (ND Fla. 1992), aff'd in part and rev'd in part, Johnson v. De Grandy, supra.
The Supreme Court of Florida then entered an order encouraging the state legislature to adopt a new plan to address the Justice Department's objection, and noting that if the legislature failed to act, the court itself would adopt a reapportionment plan. See 815 F. Supp., at 1556; see also
The amended plan, known as Plan 330, called for an irregularly shaped Senate District 21, with a voting-age population 45.8% black and 9.4% Hispanic and comprising portions of four counties in the Tampa Bay area. Id., at 546. The district included the central portions of Tampa in Hillsborough County, the eastern shore of Tampa Bay running south to Bradenton in Manatee County, central portions of St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, a narrow projection eastward through parts of Hillsborough and Polk Counties, and a narrow finger running north from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. See Juris. Statement 29a. Although the State Supreme Court acknowledged that the district was "more contorted" than other possible plans and that black residents in different parts of the district might have little in common besides their race, it decided that such concerns "must give way to racial and ethnic fairness." See 601 So. 2d, at 546. Elections were held under Plan 330 in 1992 and 1994.
On April 14, 1994, appellant and five other residents of Hillsborough County filed this suit in the District Court invoking jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 2201, et seq., naming the State of Florida, its attorney general, and the United States Department of Justice as defendants, and alleging that District 21 in Plan 330 violated the Equal Protection
At a status conference held on July 6, 1995, shortly after we decided Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995), all parties agreed to the appointment of a mediator to seek resolution of the suit,
At a status conference held the same day the parties filed the settlement agreement, the District Court sought and received specific assurances from lawyers for the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that they were authorized to represent their respective government bodies in the litigation and enter into the settlement proposed. 180 Tr. 23-24 (Nov. 2, 1995). Appellant argued that the District Court was required to hold Plan 330 unconstitutional before it could adopt a new districting plan, see id., at 16, but the District Court disagreed, noting that "there is simply not a litigable issue with respect to what we have for shorthand purposes referred to as liability and we ought simply then to proceed . . . to resolve the issue of the fairness of this proposed settlement and entertain any objections [concerning it]." Id., at 26.
The District Court scheduled a hearing on the proposed plan for November 20, giving notice in 13 area newspapers and making details of the plan available for review in the clerk's office. See App. 161. Before the hearing, the settling parties submitted evidence including affidavits and declarations addressing the factors considered in revising District 21, Record 188, and appellant submitted his own remedial plan for a District 21 wholly contained within Hillsborough County, Record 172, at A4. At the hearing, counsel for the State Senate summarized the prehearing filings submitted by proponents of the settlement and the rationale behind the agreement. App. 160-172. The District Court denied appellant's motion for ruling on his motion for summary judgment on the legality of Plan 330, saying that "[i]t makes
On March 19, 1996, the District Court approved the settlement. See 920 F.Supp. 1248, 1257 (MD Fla. 1996). The panel majority first held that it was not obliged to find the existing District 21 unconstitutional in order to approve the settlement. While recognizing the need to "guard against any disingenuous adventures" by litigants, id., at 1252, n. 2, the majority noted that a State should not be deprived of the opportunity to avoid "an expensive and protracted contest and the possibility of an adverse and disruptive adjudication" by a rule insisting on "a public mea culpa " as the sole condition for dispensing with "a dispositive, specific determination of the controlling constitutional issue." Id., at 1252, and n. 2. To balance the competing interests, the court required a showing of a substantial "evidentiary and legal" basis for the plaintiffs' claim before the settlement would be approved, id., at 1252, and it held the standard satisfied. "Each party either states unequivocally that existing District 21 is unconstitutionally configured or concedes, for purposes of settlement, that the plaintiffs have established prima facie unconstitutionality." Id., at 1253, n. 3. The majority found that the "boundaries of current District 21 are markedly uneven and, in some respects, extraordinary," id., at 1253, and that the district "bears at least some of the conspicuous signs of a racially conscious contrivance," id., at 1255.
The District Court then turned to the merits of Plan 386 to determine whether its formation had been "dominated by the single-minded focus" on race that it understood to be constitutionally forbidden under Miller. 920 F. Supp., at
Chief Judge Tjoflat concurred specially. He agreed that Plan 386 was constitutional but thought that the new plan could not be approved without a judicial determination that Plan 330 was unconstitutional, as he concluded it was. Id., at 1256-1257.
We noted probable jurisdiction, 519 U.S. 926 (1996), and now affirm.
Appellant argues that the District Court erred in approving the settlement agreement without formally holding Plan 330 unconstitutional, thereby denying the State's legislature and Supreme Court the opportunity to devise a new redistricting plan.
The substance of what appellant claims as a right to the benefit of political diffusion is nothing other than the rule declared in the cases he cites, that state redistricting responsibility should be accorded primacy to the extent possible when a federal court exercises remedial power. See Growe, 507 U. S., at 34. A State should be given the opportunity to make its own redistricting decisions so long as that is practically possible and the State chooses to take the opportunity.
In this case, the State has selected its opportunity by entering into the settlement agreement, which for reasons set out below in Part II—B it had every right to do. And it has availed itself of that opportunity by proposing a plan as embodied in the settlement agreement. There can be no question on the present record that proponents of the plan included counsel authorized to represent the State itself, and there is no reason to suppose that the State's attorney general lacked authority to propose a plan as an incident of his authority to represent the State in this litigation.
On these facts, the District Court's approval of the settlement agreement was entirely consistent with the principles underlying our cases that have granted relief on the ground that a district court had failed to respect the affected government's entitlement to originate its own redistricting policy. Since the State, through its attorney general, has taken advantage of the option recognized in Growe and Wise to make redistricting decisions in the first instance, there are no reasons in those cases to burden its exercise of choice by requiring a formal adjudication of unconstitutionality.
We find no merit, either, in appellant's apparently distinct claim that, regardless of any effect on the State's districting responsibility, the District Court was bound to adjudicate liability before settlement because appellant did not agree to settle. See Brief for Appellant 27. "It has never been supposed that one party—whether an original party, a party
Appellant, of course, wanted something more than being rid of Plan 330, for he wanted a new plan that would be constitutional. But insofar as he would have been entitled to that following a formal decree of the court, he is now in the same position he would have enjoyed if he had had such a decree: his views on the merits of the proposed plan were heard, and his right to attack it in this appeal is entirely unimpaired. To the extent that he claims anything more, he is trying to do what we have previously said he may not do: to demand an adjudication that the State of Florida, represented by the attorney general, could indeed have demanded, see Growe, 507 U. S., at 34; Wise, 437 U. S., at 540 (opinion of White, J.), but instead waived.
The District Court concluded that Plan 386 did not subordinate traditional districting principles to race.
The District Court looked to the shape and composition of District 21 as redrawn in Plan 386 and found them "demonstrably benign and satisfactorily tidy." 920 F. Supp., at 1255. The district is located entirely in the Tampa Bay area, has an end-to-end distance no greater than that of most Florida
Addressing composition, the District Court found that the residents of District 21 "regard themselves as a community." 920 F. Supp., at 1255. Evidence indicated that District 21 comprises a predominantly urban, low-income population, the poorest of the nine districts in the Tampa Bay region and among the poorest districts in the State, whose white and black members alike share a similarly depressed economic condition, see App. 30-31, 49-51, and interests that reflect it, id., at 149-154. The fact that District 21 under Plan 386 is not a majority black district, the black voting-age population being 36.2%, supports the District Court's finding that the district is not a "safe" one for black-preferred candidates, but one that "offers to any candidate, without regard to race, the opportunity" to seek and be elected to office. 920 F. Supp., at 1256.
In short, the evidence amply supports the trial court's views that race did not predominate over Florida's traditional districting principles in drawing Plan 386. Appellant has provided nothing that calls that conclusion into question, much less that points to any clear error.
It is so ordered.
Justice Scalia, with whom Justice O'Connor, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Thomas join, dissenting.
The Court today affirms a Federal District Court's redrawing of Florida Senate District 21, despite the fact that the District Court never determined that District 21 was unconstitutional, and never gave the State an opportunity to do its own redrawing of the district to remedy whatever unconstitutional features it contained. In my view, the District Court's actions represent an unprecedented intrusion upon state sovereignty.
The District Court held that it could exercise its authority under the Fourteenth Amendment to "compel the nullification and re-establishment of state legislative boundaries" without finding a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, so long as "the case presents a sufficient evidentiary and legal basis to warrant the bona fide intervention of a federal court into matters typically reserved to a state." 920 F.Supp. 1248, 1251-1252 (MD Fla. 1996). Although acknowledging that the "`[d]efendants and defendant-intervenors deny these assertions [of unconstitutionality],' " id., at 1252-1253, n. 3 (quoting Settlement Agreement), the District Court determined that the claim that District 21 was unconstitutional was "fairly litigable," id., at 1253, n. 3, and found this enough to justify its reapportionment order.
The only authority cited by the District Court for the proposition that a court can mandate a remedy without finding liability is Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U.S. 267, 284 (1986). But that opinion has no bearing on the present case. It dealt with the question whether a school board could, consistent with the Constitution, implement an affirmative-action program
The Court evidently believes that an adjudication of unconstitutionality of District 21 was unnecessary here because the State entered into a consent agreement accepting judicial imposition of Plan 386. For this proposition it relies upon Firefighters v. Cleveland, 478 U.S. 501 (1986), which said that "it is the parties' agreement that serves as the source of the [District Court's] authority to enter . . . judgment . . . ." Id., at 522. However, that passage from Firefighters is of no help to the Court—even putting aside the fact that the "agreement" there at issue, unlike the one here, was an agreement to remedy unlawful conduct (a "pattern of racial discrimination") that had been adjudged, id., at 506, 511— 512.
In today's case, by contrast, neither the appellant nor the other original plaintiffs (now appellees) could have concluded a binding out-of-court "redistricting agreement" with representatives of the Florida Legislature, or with the state attorney general—and the Court does not contend otherwise. The Florida Constitution, Art. III, § 16, requires the legislature to draw districts "by joint resolution," and provides no authority for the attorney general to do so.
These principles would suffice to invalidate an unauthorized private agreement as the basis for a federal judicial decree in even the ordinary case, but they should apply even more rigorously to an agreement purportedly supporting a federal judicial decree of state reapportionment, which we have described as an "unwelcome obligation," Connor v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407, 415 (1977), that should be undertaken by a district court only as a last resort, see, e. g., White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783 (1973). Indeed, even if it were possible for the Florida Legislature to authorize two of its members to negotiate an apportionment agreement that could be the basis for a federal court decree, one would think that the special solicitude we have shown for preservation of the States' apportionment authority would cause the court to demand clearer credentials on the part of those who purport to speak for the legislature.
But in fact all these inquiries into authorization to enter private agreements are supererogatory. Even an authorized private agreement cannot serve as the basis for a federal apportionment decree. We have said explicitly, and in unmistakable terms, that "[f]ederal courts are barred from intervening in state apportionment in the absence of a violation of federal law." Voinovich v. Quilter, 507 U.S. 146, 156 (1993) (emphasis added). As Chief Judge Tjoflat's concurrence below correctly stated, "to enter the judgment in question, the court must find that District 21 is unconstitutional." 920 F. Supp., at 1256-1257. I would adhere to that principle.
Finally, I find no merit in the Court's apparent suggestion, ante, at 578-580, that appellant has no standing to complain of this defect. A judicial decree entered without jurisdiction has mooted his suit. Surely that is enough to sustain his appeal.
The District Court's failure to find the pre-existing District 21 unconstitutional is alone enough to require reversal of the judgment. But the District Court committed a second error, in failing to give the Florida Legislature the opportunity to redraw the district before imposing a courtordered solution. We have repeatedly emphasized that federal interference with state districting "represents a serious intrusion on the most vital of local functions," Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 915 (1995), and that "reapportionment[, which] is primarily the duty and responsibility of the State," Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 27 (1975), "`is primarily a matter for legislative consideration and determination,' " Connor v. Finch, supra, at 414 (quoting Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 586 (1964)). "`[J]udicial relief becomes appropriate,' " we have said, "`only when a legislature fails to reapportion according to federal constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate opportunity to do so.' " White v. Weiser, supra, at 794-795 (quoting Reynolds, supra, at 586). See also Growe v. Emison, 507 U.S. 25, 33-34 (1993); Upham v. Seamon, 456 U.S. 37, 41-42 (1982) (per curiam); McDaniel v. Sanchez, 452 U.S. 130, 142 (1981); Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S. 535, 540 (1978) (opinion of White, J.). The District Court's failure to give Florida a reasonable opportunity to craft its own solution after a judicial finding that the current districting was unconstitutional—or even (since here such a finding was never made) after the judicial finding that a constitutional claim is "fairly litigable"—was most assuredly error.
The District Court repeatedly referred to Plan 386 as a "legislative solution," 920 F. Supp., at 1255, and the concurrence described it as a "plan that the Florida legislature has proposed," id., at 1257. But judicial characterization does not overcome reality. The fact that the Speaker of Florida's House of Representatives and the President of Florida's Senate
Appellees contend that the District Court actually offered the legislature the opportunity to redistrict, but that the legislature declined. This contention is based upon the fact that the representatives of the Florida Legislature informed the District Court, prior to any proceedings on the merits, that the legislature would likely not sua sponte redraw the districts in response to Miller v. Johnson, supra, and on the status reports filed by the Florida Senate, see ante, at 578, n. 5. But the requisite opportunity that our cases describe is an opportunity to redraw districts after the extant districts have been ruled unconstitutional—not after a Supreme Court case has been announced which may or may not ultimately lead to a ruling that the extant districts are unconstitutional. See, e. g., Growe, supra, at 34; McDaniel, supra, at 142; Reynolds, supra, at 585-586. The State is under no obligation to redistrict unless and until a determination has been made that there has been a violation of federal law.
* * *
Because the District Court lacked the authority to mandate redistricting without first having found a constitutional violation; and because the District Court failed to give the State an opportunity to redistrict on its own after notice of the constitutional violation (or even after notice of the court's intention to proceed with its own plan), I would reverse the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings. Given my conclusion on appellant's first two challenges to the District Court's judgment, I have no occasion
I respectfully dissent.
The dissent challenges the authority of those representing the State House and Senate to speak for those bodies and further claims that even if they were authorized, the District Court was required to "demand clearer credentials" on their part.See post, at 586.However this may be, the State was represented by the attorney general and it is by virtue of his agreement as counsel that the State was a party to the agreement.The settlement and subsequent judgment do not, of course, prevent the state legislature from redistricting yet again.See App. 19.
In addition, only 9 of the State's 40 Senate districts are located within a single county, and 5 of those are within Dade County. See App. 33. Multicounty districting also increases the number of legislators who can speak for each county, a districting goal traditionally pursued in the State. See id., at 32, and n. 7.
Moreover, under the Florida Constitution the prescribed body to reapportion when the legislature has failed to do so is the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Constitution itself states this explicitly with regard to the legislature's failure to act after the decennial census, Fla. Const., Art. III, § 16; and the Florida Supreme Court has held that it has authority to reapportion (absent legislative action) in the event of Justice Department refusal of preclearance, and hence by implication in the event of federal-court invalidation, see In re Constitutionality of Senate Joint Resolution 2G, supra, at 544-545.