September 4, 2012
Fifth Circuit: Challengers Have Standing in One-Person-One-Vote Suit, Remand for Mootness
The Fifth Circuit ruled last week in Hancock County Board of Supervisors v. Ruhr that the NAACP and individual plaintiffs had standing to challenge Mississippi county Board of Supervisor districts as violating one-person-one-vote and remanded the case to the district court to determine whether the case is moot.
The ruling means that the case goes back to the district court to determine whether it's moot--and, in particular, whether it's capable of repetition, yet evading review, given that (1) Board of Supervisors elections already happened but (2) the counties may run into this same problem ten years from now, when the 2020 census comes out.
The plaintiffs--individuals and the NAACP--sued Mississippi counties, claiming that county Board of Supervisor districts failed the one-person-one-vote rule in light of the 2010 census results. The district court dismissed some of the claims for lack of standing, and the plaintiffs appealed.
The Fifth Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs had individual and associational standing. But the court also wondered whether the case was moot--because the elections are over. Here's the court:
Based on the record before us, however, we are unable to determine whether this controversy is live. To illustrate, because the district court has not evaluated mootness in the first instance, we lack access to factual findings with which to determine whether the "capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to mootness is applicable to this case. Although we could assume that this controversy will reoccur every twenty years when the election cycle and census publication coincide, we decline the invitation to engage in such speculation.
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