William J. Brennan, Jr.: Opinion in Baker v. Carr

(1962)

The pivotal U.S. Supreme Court case Baker v. Carr (1962) decided that questions concerning redistricting (attempts to alter the configuration and delineation of voting districts) are not simply political questions but come under the purview of the courts. With this decision federal courts were allowed to intervene in and decide reapportionment cases.

The constitution of Tennessee required that legislative districts be redrawn every ten years in accord with the federal census, in order to configure districts of substantially equal population. Charles Baker, a Republican in the county that includes Memphis, brought suit, claiming that no redistricting had been done since 1901. His urban area was thus underrepresented by comparison with neighboring rural areas. The state of Tennessee claimed that if legislative malapportionment existed, the discrepancy had to be resolved through the political process. William J. Brennan, writing for the majority, sided with the plaintiff in...

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William J. Brennan, Jr. (Library of Congress)

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