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Legal Brief of Baker v. Carr (1962) by: David A.W. Hittle

Baker v. Carr 369 U.S. 186; 82 S.Ct. 691; 7 L.Ed. 2d. 663 (1962) Vote 6 to 2

The facts of the case are these: “…this case began when voters of Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville brought a federal class action lawsuit challenging the apportionment of the Tennessee General Assembly. The general assembly had not been reapportioned since 1901 and, as a result of population growth in the cities, had become badly malapportioned. The plaintiffs argued that they were being ‘denied the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment …by virture of the debasement of their votes.’ 

The issues in this case are as follows: 1. Do the voters of Tennessee have a constitutional claim for their lawsuit under the fourteenth amendment? 2. Is this case due to Colegrove v. Green a “political question” and therefore nonjusticiable?

  1. The Court finds that the voters of Tennessee do have a constitutional claim for their lawsuit under the fourteenth amendment.
  2. The court also finds that the district court’s reasoning that the case cannot be taking because it is a “political question” and therefore nonjusticiable and shouldn’t be heard.

The holding in this case: The Court finds that since the issues are permissible, i.e. the citizens have the right to sue, and the question is justiciable, the Court reversed and remanded the case back to the District Court for decision. 

The rationale of the case was this: The Court founds that since “the complaint’s allegations of a denial of equal protection present a justiciable constitutional cause of action upon which [Baker is] entitled to a trial and a decision. 

Other Opinions in this case were: Mr. Justice Whittaker did not participate in the decision of this case. Mr. Justice Douglas, concurred. Mr. Justice Clark, concurred. Mr. Justice Stewart, concurred. Mr. Justice Frankerfurter, whom Mr. Justice Harlan joins, dissented stating: “The Court today reverses a uniform course of decision established by a dozen cases. … Disregard of inherent limits in the effective exercise of the Court’s “judicial Power” not only presages the futility of judicial intervention in the essentially political conflict of forces by which the relation between population and representation has time out of mine been and now is determined. It may well impair the Court’s position as the ultimate organ of “the supreme Law of the Land” in that vast range of legal problems, often strongly entangled in popular feeling, on which this Court must pronounce.”


The significance of this case is this: With the Supreme Court taking this case for less than a majority of the voters in a state filing a federal class action lawsuit, they have given a minority of voters the right to sue against the majority. While both the majority and the minority are represented in the general assembly, the minority in this case have cause the majority in whom have the right to apportion the state in accordance to their constitution at a disadvantage, and has brought the Supreme Court into the ability to decide whether apportionments are population-ally supported. What gives the Supreme Court a better insight into the apportionment of a state over the state legislature whom are responsible for conducting the stated practice of apportionment.