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Legal Issues

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The unprecedented Gomillion v. Lightfoot came to the Supreme Court because the
borders of Tuskegee, Alabama were redrawn. They went from a square shape to an
irregular one to exclude black neighborhoods, on the outer edges of the city,
violating the 15th Amendment, denying them a vote because of race. This practice
is also known as racial gerrymandering. On October 18 and 19 of 1960 this case
was argued. The decision was made on November 14, 1960. The case was pulled up
from the Fifth Circuit of Appellate Courts. The Plaintiff, the African American
citizens of Tuskegee, Alabama were accusing the Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama,
Lightfoot, denying constitutional rights to the citizens. The case was ruled on
just after another very important racial case, Barker v. Carr. This case
furthered the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. The
Supreme Court of the United States reversed the ruling from the Fifth Circuit of
Appellate Courts. The Appellate Court ruled that the State could look out for
its best interest. The court applied this past ruling from other cases to rule
that the municipality could look out for its best interest. The Supreme Court,
however, felt that the means do not justify the ends. Using a Constitutional
procedure to achieve an Unconstitutional result is unconstitutional. Whittaker,
wrote a concurring opinion agreeing that the border move was Unconstitutional,
but under the fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause because the state
was redrawing borders to the black citizen's detriment. He felt that voting was
not denied because of race. In fact, border changes occur all the time and the
blacks still had a right to vote for any candidate or position that falls in
their area. He felt that the re-bordering was a segregation attempt illegal
under the precedent of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas. Justice
Frankfurter expressed his opinion quite clearly when he stated: ....that Act 140
is unconstitutional, and for an injunction to restrain the Mayor and officers of
Tuskegee and the officials of Macon County, Alabama, from enforcing the Act
against them and other Negroes [sic] similarly situated. Petitioners' claim is
that enforcement of the statute, which alters the shape of Tuskegee from a
square to an uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure, will constitute a discrimination
against them in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and will deny them the right to vote in
defiance of the Fifteenth Amendment. His opinion also covered the concern of
Federalism. The question was, Why should a federal court have jurisdiction over
a state and municipality business? Frankfurter answered with, "When a state
exercises power wholly within the domain of state interest, it is insulated from
federal judicial review, but such insulation is not carried over when state
power is used as an instrument for circumventing a federally protected
right." In fact, Frankfurter, in his scathing opinion, accused blatantly
that the Appellate Courts and lower courts were racist. This hurt the
credibility of the lower courts. This historic case set the precedent for racial
gerrymandering across the nation. Mayors and legislators in every county,
especially in the south, now had the Federal Government and the Department of
Justice watching their every move. Hatred, ignorance, and racism may play a part
in some peoples decisions, the 200 year old document is as blind as Justice
herself. Atticus said it best, "All men are equal in the Court of
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