In this appeal, we must decide whether appellees were entitled to summary judgment on their claim that North Carolina's Twelfth Congressional District, as established by the State's 1997 congressional redistricting plan, constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
This is the third time in six years that litigation over North Carolina's Twelfth Congressional District has come before this Court. The first time around, we held that plaintiffs whose complaint alleged that the State had deliberately segregated voters into districts on the basis of race without compelling justification stated a claim for relief under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, 658 (1993) (Shaw I). After remand, we affirmed the District Court's finding that North Carolina's District 12 classified voters by race and further held that the State's reapportionment scheme was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest. Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) (Shaw II).
In response to our decision in Shaw II, the State enacted a new districting plan. See 1997 N. C. Sess. Laws, ch. 11. A map of the unconstitutional District 12 was set forth in the Appendix to the opinion of the Court in Shaw I, supra, and we described it as follows:
The State's 1997 plan altered District 12 in several respects. By any measure, blacks no longer constitute a majority of District 12: Blacks now account for approximately 47% of the district's total population, 43% of its voting age population, and 46% of registered voters. App. to Juris. Statement 67a, 99a. The new District 12 splits 6 counties as opposed to 10; beginning with Guilford County, the district runs in a southwestern direction through parts of Forsyth, Davidson, Rowan, Iredell, and Mecklenburg Counties, picking up concentrations of urban populations in Greensboro and High Point (both in Guilford), Winston-Salem (Forsyth), and Charlotte (Mecklenburg). (The old District 12 went through the same six counties but also included portions of Durham, Orange, and Alamance Counties east of Guilford, and parts of Gaston County west of Mecklenburg.) With these changes, the district retains only 41.6% of its previous area, id., at 153a, and the distance between its farthest points has been reduced to approximately 95 miles, id., at 105a. But while District 12 is wider and shorter than it was before, it retains its basic "snakelike" shape and continues to track Interstate 85. See generally Appendix, infra.
Appellees believed the new District 12, like the old one, to be the product of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
Our decisions have established that all laws that classify citizens on the basis of race, including racially gerrymandered districting schemes, are constitutionally suspect and must be strictly scrutinized. Shaw II, 517 U. S., at 904; Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 904-905 (1995); Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U.S. 200, 227 (1995). When racial classifications are explicit, no inquiry into legislative purpose is necessary. See Shaw I, 509 U. S., at 642. A facially neutral law, on the other hand, warrants strict scrutiny only if it can be proved that the law was "motivated by a racial purpose or object," Miller, supra, at 913, or if it is "`unexplainable on grounds other than race,' " Shaw I, supra, at 644 (quoting Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266 (1977)); see also Miller, supra, at 905, 913. The task of assessing a jurisdiction's motivation, however, is not a simple matter; on the contrary, it is an inherently complex endeavor, one requiring the trial court to perform a "sensitive inquiry into such circumstantial and direct evidence of intent as may be available." Arlington Heights, supra, at 266; see also Miller, supra, at 905, 914 (citing Arlington Heights ); Shaw I, supra, at 644 (same).
Appellees offered only circumstantial evidence in support of their claim. Their evidence included maps of District 12, showing its size, shape,
Appellees also presented statistical and demographic evidence with respect to the precincts that were included within District 12 and those that were placed in neighboring districts. For the six subdivided counties included within District 12, the proportion of black residents was higher in the portion of the county within District 12 than the portion of the county in a neighboring district.
Viewed in toto, appellees' evidence tends to support an inference that the State drew its district lines with an impermissible
The District Court nevertheless was only partially correct in stating that the material facts before it were uncontroverted. The legislature's motivation is itself a factual question. See Shaw II, 517 U. S., at 905; Miller, supra, at 910. Appellants asserted that the General Assembly drew its district lines with the intent to make District 12 a strong Democratic district. In support, they presented the afterthe-fact affidavit testimony of the two members of the General Assembly responsible for developing the State's 1997 plan. See App. to Juris. Statement 69a—84a. Those legislators further stated that, in crafting their districting law, they attempted to protect incumbents, to adhere to traditional districting criteria, and to preserve the existing partisan balance in the State's congressional delegation, which in 1997 was composed of six Republicans and six Democrats. Ibid.
More important, we think, was the affidavit of an expert, Dr. David W. Peterson. Id., at 85a—100a. He reviewed racial demographics, party registration, and election result data (the number of people voting for Democratic candidates) gleaned from the State's 1998 Court of Appeals election, 1998 Lieutenant Governor election, and 1990 United States Senate election for the precincts included within District 12 and those surrounding it. Unlike appellees' evidence, which highlighted select boundary segments, appellants' expert
Peterson's analysis of District 12's divergent boundary segments and his affidavit testimony that District 12 displays a high correlation between race and partisanship support an inference that the General Assembly did no more than create a district of strong partisan Democrats. His affidavit is also significant in that it weakens the probative value of appellees' boundary segment evidence, which the District Court appeared to give significant weight. See id., at 20a—21a. Appellees' evidence was limited to a few select precincts, see App. 253-276, whereas Peterson analyzed all 234 boundary segments. Moreover, appellees' maps reported only party registration figures. Peterson again was more thorough, looking also at actual voting results.
Accepting appellants' political motivation explanation as true, as the District Court was required to do in ruling on appellees' motion for summary judgment, see Anderson, 477 U. S., at 255, appellees were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Our prior decisions have made clear that a jurisdiction may engage in constitutional political gerrymandering, even if it so happens that the most loyal Democrats happen to be black Democrats and even if the State were conscious of that fact. See Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 968 (1996); id., at 1001 (Thomas, J., concurring in judgment); Shaw II, supra, at 905; Miller, 515 U. S., at 916; Shaw I, 509 U. S., at 646.
Of course, neither appellees nor the District Court relied exclusively on appellees' boundary segment evidence, and appellees submitted other evidence tending to show that the General Assembly was motivated by racial considerations in drawing District 12—most notably, District 12's shape and its lack of compactness. But in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party's evidence "is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [that party's] favor." Anderson, 477 U. S., at 255. While appellees' evidence might allow the District Court to find that the State acted with an impermissible racial motivation, despite the State's explanation as supported by the Peterson affidavit, it does not require that the court do so. All that can be said on the record before us is that motivation was in dispute. Reasonable inferences from the undisputed facts can be drawn in favor of a racial motivation finding or in favor of a political motivation finding. The District Court nevertheless concluded that race was the "predominant factor" in the drawing of the district. In doing so, it either credited appellees' asserted inferences over those advanced and supported by appellants or did not give appellants the inference they were due. In any event, it was error in this case for the District Court to resolve the disputed fact of motivation at the summary judgment stage. Cf. ibid. ("Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions").
In reaching our decision, we are fully aware that the District Court is more familiar with the evidence than this Court, and is likewise better suited to assess the General
It is so ordered.
[Appendix containing North Carolina Congressional District map follows this page.]
The disputed issue of fact in this case is whether political considerations or racial considerations provide the "primary" explanation for the seemingly irregular configuration of North Carolina's Twelfth Congressional District. The Court concludes that evidence submitted to the District Court on behalf of the State made it inappropriate for that Court to grant appellees' motion for summary judgment. I agree with that conclusion, but write separately to emphasize the importance of two undisputed matters of fact that are firmly established by the historical record and confirmed by the record in this case.
First, bizarre configuration is the traditional hallmark of the political gerrymander. This obvious proposition is supported by the work product of Elbridge Gerry, by the "swan" designed by New Jersey Republicans in 1982, see Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 744, 762-763 (1983), and by the Indiana plan reviewed in Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109, 183, 185 (1986). As we learned in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960), a racial gerrymander may have an equally "uncouth" shape. See id., at 340, 348. Thus, the shape of the congressional district at issue in this case provides strong evidence that either political or racial factors motivated its architects, but sheds no light on the question of which set of factors was more responsible for subordinating any of the State's "traditional" districting principles.
Indeed, for me the most remarkable feature of the District Court's erroneous decision is that it relied entirely on data concerning the location of registered Democrats and ignored the more probative evidence of how the people who live near the borders of District 12 actually voted in recent elections. That evidence not only undermines and rebuts the inferences the District Court drew from the party registration data, but also provides strong affirmative evidence that is thoroughly consistent with the sworn testimony of the two members of the state legislature who were most active in drawing the boundaries of District 12. The affidavits of those members, stating that district lines were drawn according to election results, not voter registration, are uncontradicted.
The record supports the conclusion that the most loyal Democrats living near the borders of District 12 "happen to be black Democrats," see ibid., and I have no doubt that the legislature was conscious of that fact when it enacted this apportionment plan. But everyone agrees that that fact is not sufficient to invalidate the district. Cf. ante, at 551-552. That fact would not even be enough, under this Court's decisions, to invalidate a governmental action, that, unlike the
Accordingly, appellees' evidence may include nothing more than (i) a bizarre shape, which is equally consistent with either political or racial motivation, (ii) registration data, which are virtually irrelevant when actual voting results were available and which point in a different direction, and (iii) knowledge of the racial composition of the district. Because we do not have before us the question whether the District Court erred in denying the State's motion for summary judgment, I need not decide whether that circumstantial evidence even raises an inference of improper motive. It is sufficient at this stage of the proceedings to join in the Court's judgment of reversal, which I do.