Baker v. Carr/Concurrence Stewart
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, concurring.
The separate writings of my dissenting and concurring Brothers stray so far from the subject of today's decision as to convey, I think, a distressingly inaccurate impression of what the Court decides. For that reason, I think it appropriate, in joining the opinion of the Court, to emphasize in a few words what the opinion does and does not say.
The Court today decides three things, and no more:
- (a) that the court possessed jurisdiction of the subject matter; (b) that a justiciable cause of action is stated upon which appellants would be entitled to appropriate relief, and (c). . . that the appellants have standing to challenge the Tennessee apportionment statutes.
Ante, pp. 197-198.
The complaint in this case asserts that Tennessee's system of apportionment is utterly arbitrary — without any possible justification in rationality. The District Court did not reach the merits of that claim, and this Court quite properly expresses no view on the subject. Contrary to the suggestion of my Brother HARLAN, the Court does not say or imply that "state legislatures must be so structured as to reflect with approximate equality the voice of every voter." Post, p. 332. The Court does not say or imply that there is anything in the Federal Constitution
- to prevent a State, acting not irrationally, from choosing any electoral legislative structure it thinks best suited to the interests, temper, and customs of its people.
Post p. 334. And, contrary to the suggestion of my Brother DOUGLAS, the Court most assuredly does not decide the question, "may a State weight the vote of one county or one district more heavily than it weights the vote in another?" Ante, p. 244.
In MacDougall v. Green, 335 U.S. 281, the Court held that the Equal Protection Clause does not
- deny a State the power to assure a proper diffusion of political initiative [p266] as between its thinly populated counties and those having concentrated masses, in view of the fact that the latter have practical opportunities for exerting their political weight at the polls not available to the former.
335 U.S. at 284. In case after case arising under the Equal Protection Clause, the Court has said what it said again only last Term — that
- the Fourteenth Amendment permits the States a wide scope of discretion in enacting laws which affect some groups of citizens differently than others.
McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 425. In case after case arising under that Clause, we have also said that "the burden of establishing the unconstitutionality of a statute rests on him who assails it." Metropolitan Casualty Ins. Co. v. Brownell, 294 U.S. 580, 584.
Today's decision does not turn its back on these settled precedents. I repeat, the Court today decides only: (1) that the District Court possessed jurisdiction of the subject matter; (2) that the complaint presents a justiciable controversy; (3) that the appellants have standing. My Brother CLARK has made a convincing prima facie showing that Tennessee's system of apportionment is, in fact, utterly arbitrary — without any possible justification in rationality. My Brother HARLAN has, with imagination and ingenuity, hypothesized possibly rational bases for Tennessee's system. But the merits of this case are not before us now. The defendants have not yet had an opportunity to be heard in defense of the State's system of apportionment; indeed, they have not yet even filed an answer to the complaint. As in other cases, the proper place for the trial is in the trial court, not here.