Wisconsin v. City of New York
Decided on Mar. 20, 1996; 517 US 1


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Census, Reapportionment

B. Legal Question Presented:

Did the decision of the Secretary of Commerce not to use a statistical correction, known as the post-enumeration survey (PES), in the 1990 census violate the constitutional right of certain minorities to be counted?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"The Constitution's Census Clause vests Congress with the responsibility to conduct an 'actual Enumeration' of the American public every 10 years, with the primary purpose of providing a basis for apportioning congressional representation among the States. That responsibility has been delegated to the Secretary of Commerce, who determined that an 'actual Enumeration' would best be achieved in the 1990 census by not using a postenumeration survey (PES) statistical adjustment designed to correct an undercount in the initial enumeration. In this action brought by several of the respondents and others, the District Court concluded that the Secretary's decision not to statistically adjust the census violated neither the Constitution nor federal law. In reversing and remanding, the Court of Appeals looked to a line of precedent involving judicial review of intrastate districting decisions, see Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, and its progeny, and held, inter alia, that a heightened standard of review was required here because the Secretary's decision impacted the fundamental right to have one's vote counted and had a disproportionate impact upon certain identifiable minority racial groups."

On appeal the US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Second Circuit.
B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Brief of amici curiae urging affirmance was filed by C. Hansen, S. Shapiro, and A. Eisenberg on behalf of the ACLU.

Robert S. Rifkind, argued the cause for the respondents.

Drew S. Days III, Solicitor General, argued the cause on behalf of the federal petitioners.

James E. Doyle, Attorney General of Wisconsin, argued the cause for the state petitioners.

IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Congress has delegated its broad authority over the census to the Secretary. Hence, so long as the Secretary's conduct of the census is 'consistent with the constitutional language and the constitutional goal of equal representation,' it is within the Constitution's limits...

In light of the Constitution's broad grant of authority to Congress, that decision need bear only a reasonable relationship to the accomplishment of an actual enumeration of the population, keeping in mind the census' constitutional purpose of apportioning congressional representation...

The Secretary's conclusion that the PES-based adjustment would not improve distributive accuracy, which was based on his review of extensive research and the recommendations of some of his advisers, was a reasonable choice in an area where technical experts disagree... The Secretary's decision was not subject to heightened scrutiny, and [is] conformed to applicable constitutional and statutory provisions."

The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Second Circuit.

Justice Vote: 0 Pro vs. 9 Con
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Breyer, S. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Ginsburg, R. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Thomas, C. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Souter, D. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Kennedy, A. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stevens, J. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Scalia, A. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

    The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged affirmance of the Second Circuit's Judgment; the Supreme Court reversed in a 0-9 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.