Brown et al v. The Commonwealth of Kentucky et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER Before: BOGGS, Circuit Judge; VAN TATENHOVE, District Judge; and BERTELSMAN, Senior District Judge. PER CURIAM. It is hereby ORDERED, as follows: (1) The Plaintiffs' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment 67 is GRANTED; (2) The 2002 state legislative electoral districts, which are currently in place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, are DECLARED Unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment;(3) The Secretary of State of Kentucky an d the Kentucky Board of Elections are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from administering further elections pursuant to those districts; (4) The Legislative Research Commissions Motion to Dismiss 2012 Elections Claims 68 is DENIED, as moot.This 16th day of August 2013.(CBD)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
KENNY BROWN, individually and in his
official capacity as the Boone County Clerk,
KENTUCKY LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
COMMISSION, et al.,1
MARTIN HERBERT, et al.,
KENTUCKY STATE BOARD OF
ELECTIONS, et al.,
Civil No. 13-cv-68
Civil No. 13-cv-25
*** *** *** ***
Before: BOGGS, Circuit Judge; VAN TATENHOVE, District Judge; and BERTELSMAN,
Senior District Judge.
PER CURIAM. Plaintiff voters from various counties of the Commonwealth of
Kentucky claim that malapportionment of the state’s legislative electoral districts has
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission has been substituted as the named Defendant herein due to the
Agreed Order dismissing the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a party to this action. [R. 94].
unconstitutionally diluted their voting power. [R. 67]. These Plaintiffs seek summary judgment
declaring that the current Kentucky House and Senate districts violate the “one person, one vote”
guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and permanently enjoining
state officials from using them in future elections. The Kentucky Legislative Research
Commission, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the
Secretary of State, and the Kentucky State Board of Elections, have responded in opposition on
various grounds. [R. 75; R. 84; R. 86; R. 81]. For the reasons set forth below, this three-judge
district court shall GRANT Plaintiffs’ Joint Motion for Summary Judgment, DECLARE that the
2002 state legislative electoral districts are presently unconstitutional, and permanently ENJOIN
any future election from being conducted pursuant to these districts. Importantly, this Order does
nothing to prevent the Kentucky General Assembly from crafting redistricting legislation during
the August 19, 2013 special legislative session. What it does do is prevent the General Assembly
from falling back on lines that will be over a decade old if they fail.
In the 2012 regular legislative session, the Kentucky General Assembly undertook the
task of redistricting, and passed House Bill 1, the 2012 Reapportionment Plan. However, shortly
thereafter the plan was challenged in the Franklin Circuit Court, which pronounced the plan
unconstitutional and issued a temporary injunction preventing its use. The Legislative Research
Commission, among others, appealed that decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court. Due to the
“expedited nature of these actions” the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a summary opinion on
February 24, 2012, setting forth its decision, and stating that a full opinion would soon follow.
Legislative Research Comm'n v. Fischer, 2012-SC-091-TG, 2012 WL 952983 (Ky. Feb. 24,
2012). Importantly, the Kentucky Supreme Court characterized its holding as follows:
Before this Court is the decision of the Franklin Circuit Court, which held House
Bill 1 (2012), the reapportionment act of 2012, unconstitutional under Section 33
of the Kentucky Constitution and further enjoined the implementation of the new
legislative districts for the 2012 elections. Having considered the briefs filed by
the parties and having heard oral argument thereon, this Court concludes that
House Bill 1 (2012), the reapportionment act of 2012, is facially unconstitutional
in violation of Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution, as construed by Fischer v.
State Board of Elections, 879 S.W.2d 475 (Ky.1994). Accordingly, we affirm the
Id. (emphasis added).
Subsequently, the Kentucky Supreme Court set forth its reasoning in a detailed opinion
which represents the fourth and most recent installment of the Fischer Reapportionment Cases,
Legislative Research Comm'n v. Fischer, 366 S.W.3d 905, 908 (Ky. 2012) (Fischer IV). In its
analysis, the Kentucky Supreme Court reaffirmed its commitment to the state constitutional
standards of Fischer II, stating:
Independent of the federal standard under the Fourteenth Amendment, Section 33
imposes a dual mandate that Kentucky's state legislative districts be substantially
equal in population and preserve county integrity. A reapportionment plan
satisfies these two requirements by (1) maintaining a population variation that
does not exceed the ideal legislative district by −5 percent to +5 percent and (2)
dividing the fewest number of counties possible.
Id. at 911. Applying these rules to population figures derived from the 2012 Census, the
Kentucky Supreme Court concluded that “House Bill 1 violates Section 33 of the Kentucky
Constitution in two ways: (1) it fails to achieve sufficient population equality and (2) it fails to
preserve county integrity.” Id. at 908. It is critical to note that in reaching this decision the
Kentucky Supreme Court expressly states, “Our holding that House Bill 1 is unconstitutional is
based not upon federal law, but upon Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution.” Id. at 911.
In affirming the Franklin Circuit Court, the Kentucky Supreme Court also upheld its
injunction that prohibited the upcoming elections from being conducted pursuant to the districts
of the unconstitutional 2012 plan. In its stead, the court held that “the 2012 elections will be
conducted using the districts as enacted in the 2002 Ky. Acts and codified in KRS 5.200, et seq.”
Id. at 917. In a passage that is important in light of this case, the Kentucky Supreme Court
characterized and then responded to the LRC’s objection to this remedy as follows:
The LRC argues that it is inappropriate to hold the upcoming 2012 elections using
the 2002 districts because they violate Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution.
According to the LRC, House District 60, under the 2002 reapportionment plan,
deviates from the ideal House district by 42.7 percent; and Senate District 11
deviates from the ideal Senate district by 22.2 percent. Instead, the LRC posits
that the districts established by House Bill 1 should take effect until the General
Assembly passes new redistricting legislation. Although we do not doubt the
LRC's population deviation numbers among the 2002 districts, these are the only
legislative districts capable of implementation at this juncture.
Id. at 917. Because the 2012 Reapportionment Plan was found unconstitutional and prohibited
from use by an injunction, the 2012 general election was conducted under the 2002 lines as
ordered by the court.
Following the initial order of the Kentucky Supreme Court that declared the 2012
reapportionment plan unconstitutional, the Governor called a special legislative session.
However, the items on the agenda, as set by the Governor, did not allow for consideration of
redistricting legislation. Therefore, the 2012 Special Session came and went without action
taken by the legislature to substitute the 2002 lines with a plan based on the most recent census
data. In addition, the 2013 Regular Legislative Session adjourned without the passage of
redistricting legislation by both houses of the General Assembly.
Having been pressed back into service by order of the Kentucky Supreme Court, the
previously unchallenged 2002 reapportionment plan was contested twice by May of 2013.
Brown v. Commonwealth, Case No. 2:13-CV-068-WOB-GFVT-DJB; Herbert v. Kentucky State
Board of Elections, Case No. 3:13-CV-25-GFVT-WOB-DJB. The Plaintiffs in these two
actions, which were ultimately consolidated, are voters who claim that the 2010 Census revealed
significant population shifts that were not accounted for in the 2002 legislative districts that had
been used in the past and that were currently in force. Plaintiffs claimed that, as a result, this
legislative malapportionment had and continued to unconstitutionally dilute their voting power.
Among other things, these Plaintiffs brought claims against various state actors pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the “one person, one vote” right guaranteed by the Equal
Protection Clause of the federal Constitution.
Each district court petitioned the Chief Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to
constitute a three-judge panel as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2284. [R. 25]. Once appointed, this
three-judge district court conducted a scheduling conference with all parties present on June 21,
2013. [R. 27]. The day of this scheduling conference, the Governor called a special legislative
session for August 19, 2013 for the purpose of considering redistricting legislation. Though the
court denied a motion to stay this proceeding pending the outcome of the special session, the
Scheduling Order did account for it. [R. 49]. The court allowed an initial dispositive-motion
period for filing, “All dispositive motions, including those contesting the 2002 state redistricting
plan as unconstitutional.” [Id.] However, the court also provided for a final dispositive-motion
period following the special legislative session for the parties, “to file any final statements on
contentions regarding plans passed during the Extraordinary Legislative Session scheduled to
commence on August 19, 2013.” [Id.] The Scheduling Order also accounted for a pretrial
conference and bench trial to be conducted if necessary. [Id.]
During the initial dispositive-motion period, several motions were filed, including the
Plaintiffs’ Joint Motion for Summary Judgment that is currently pending before this court. [R.
67]. In that motion, the Plaintiffs request very narrow and particular relief. Specifically, the
Plaintiffs “seek summary judgment declaring that Kentucky’s existing House and Senate
legislative districts — districts that were enacted in 2002— are impermissibly mal-apportioned
in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, and a permanent injunction
barring the Defendants from utilizing the current House and Senate legislative districts in any
future elections.” [Id.] Several of the state Defendants, have responded in opposition. [R. 75; R.
84; R. 86; R. 81]. In their view, the Plaintiffs do not have standing to assert their claims, which
also do not meet the requirements for a declaratory judgment or preliminary injunction and are
barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, mootness, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, and the
relevant statute of limitations. Further, some of the Defendants maintain that no violation of
equal protection has taken place.
With nearly a half century having elapsed since a federal court in Kentucky has had
occasion to consider the issue of reapportionment in the context of the Equal Protection Clause, it
is now necessary to fully set forth the federal law on this matter. In Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186,
82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962), the United States Supreme Court ushered in a new era of
reapportionment litigation in federal court when it considered a constitutional challenge to the
state legislative electoral districts of Tennessee. This case arose because Tennessee had not
reapportioned its legislative districts since 1901, over sixty years earlier. The Plaintiffs brought
suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, alleging that the 1901 redistricting
plan “denied the equal protection of the laws accorded them by the Fourteenth Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States by virtue of the debasement of their votes.” Id. at 188. (internal
quotation marks omitted). However, the three-judge district court dismissed the case on the
grounds that it lacked jurisdiction and that there was no claim on which relief could be granted.
In reversing this determination, the United States Supreme Court first found that the
claim was without question a “case or controversy” that “arises under” the federal Constitution,
such that “an unbroken line of our precedents sustains the federal courts’ jurisdiction of the
subject matter of federal constitutional claims of this nature.” Id. at 200-01. The Court next
found that the Plaintiffs, who were “qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly
representing his county,” had standing to bring this action. Id. at 206. Finally, the Court turned
to the question of whether the case presented a justiciable issue, which is to say, whether this
subject matter is appropriate for judicial consideration. The district court had found that federal
courts ought not to interfere with a state’s legislative reapportionment. However, in Baker, the
Supreme Court “held that a claim asserted under the Equal Protection Clause challenging the
constitutionality of a State's apportionment of seats in its legislature, on the ground that the right
to vote of certain citizens was effectively impaired since debased and diluted, in effect presented
a justiciable controversy subject to adjudication by federal courts.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S.
533, 556, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 1378, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964). Having resolved those issues, the Court
remanded the case to the district court, although without providing specific guidance as to how to
resolve the controversy.
Once Baker v. Carr was decided, a “spate of similar cases” were brought in federal court
showing, “that the problem of state legislative malapportionment is one that is perceived to exist
in a large number of the States.” Id. Reynolds remains the seminal case on the reapportionment
of state legislative districts. As in Baker v. Carr, the Plaintiffs in this case were voters who
brought claims in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 that the
malapportionment of their state legislative districts had deprived them of their rights under the
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Alabama had not reapportioned its
legislative electoral districts since 1901, and the more than sixty-year-old census data used in
creating that plan had resulted in significant population variances in the Senate and House of
Representatives. When the district court found that the 1901 districts, as well as two plans
passed during the course of the litigation, violated the Equal Protection Clause, the defendant
state officials appealed.
After finding the claim justiciable under Baker v. Carr, the United States Supreme Court
proceeded to consider the standards required of state legislative reapportionment plans under the
Equal Protection Clause. The Court first determined the principal underlying the Equal
Protection Clause in this context is the democratic notion of “one person, one vote.” Id. at 558
(citing Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 83 S.Ct. 801, 9 L.Ed.2d 821 (1963)). Having recognized
this principle, the Court held that
as a basic constitutional standard, the Equal Protection Clause requires that the
seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a
population basis. Simply stated, an individual's right to vote for state legislators is
unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted
when compared with votes of citizens living on other parts of the State.
Id. at 568. Under this standard, the Court upheld the decision of the three-judge panel that none
of the plans were constitutional.
Though the Court noted that it would be justified in proceeding no further, it continued to
essentially provide guidance for the legislature as it undertook to reapportion the electoral
districts in accordance with the mandates of the Equal Protection Clause. Despite requiring
apportionment to be conducted under the “one person, one vote” principal and on a population
basis, the Court clarified that “mathematical exactness or precision is hardly a workable
requirement.” Id. at 577. Instead, “the Equal Protection Clause requires that a State make an
honest and good faith effort to construct districts, in both houses of its legislature, as nearly of
equal population as is practicable.” Id. at 579. The Court reasoned that some flexibility was
appropriate in order to allow for states to pursue other important goals of reapportionment
specific to their state’s unique circumstances. Specifically the Court stated:
So long as the divergences from a strict population standard are based on
legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy,
some deviations from the equal-population principle are constitutionally
permissible with respect to the apportionment of seats in either or both of the two
houses of a bicameral state legislature.
One such rational state policy that the Court approved was the “desire to maintain the
integrity of various political subdivisions.” Id. However, the Court reiterated that the “overriding
objective must be substantial equality of population among the various districts.” Id. at 580.
The Court next turned to the issue of timing. Though the Equal Protection Clause
requires apportionment on a population basis, the Court recognized that with population growth
and shifts, there would necessarily be some difficultly in maintaining that standard over time.
The Court stated that “we do not regard the Equal Protection Clause as requiring daily, monthly,
annual or biennial reapportionment, so long as a State has a reasonably conceived plan for
periodic readjustment of legislative representation.” Id. at 583. However, the Court recognized
that the vast majority of states had plans in place for decennial reapportionment and, “if
reapportionment were accomplished with less frequency, it would assuredly be constitutionally
suspect.” Id. at 584.
Finally, the Court briefly addressed the issue of the proper court remedies available under
these circumstances. Though unwilling to fully set forth the remedial devices courts could
employ, the Court noted, “It is enough to say now that, once a State's legislative apportionment
scheme has been found to be unconstitutional, it would be the unusual case in which a court
would be justified in not taking appropriate action to insure that no further elections are
conducted under the invalid plan.” Id. at 585. (emphasis added). The Court elaborated that this
unusual case might take the form of a circumstance “where an impending election is imminent
and a State's election machinery is already in progress.” Id. Under such conditions, “equitable
considerations might justify a court in withholding the granting of immediately effective relief in
a legislative apportionment case, even though the existing apportionment scheme was found
invalid.” Id. Therefore, though courts that find a reapportionment plan violative of the
Constitution ought to engage in remediation, such action should be taken with consideration to
the “proximity of the forthcoming election,” “disruption to the election process,” and other
general equitable principles. Id. To exemplify an appropriate manner of proceeding, the Court
provided the following analysis of the process applied by the federal district court in Alabama:
We feel that the District Court in this case acted in a most proper and
commendable manner. It initially acted wisely in declining to stay the impending
primary election in Alabama, and properly refrained from acting further until the
Alabama Legislature had been given an opportunity to remedy the admitted
discrepancies in the State's legislative apportionment scheme, while initially
stating some of its views to provide guidelines for legislative action. And it
correctly recognized that legislative reapportionment is primarily a matter for
legislative consideration and determination, and that judicial relief becomes
appropriate only when a legislature fails to reapportion according to federal
constitutional requisites in a timely fashion after having had an adequate
opportunity to do so.
Id. at 586.
Though the holding of Reynolds remains the prevailing law, subsequent case law has
more clearly defined its parameters. A state legislative reapportionment plan with a maximum
population deviation2 of 10% or greater “creates a prima facie case of discrimination and
therefore must be justified by the state.” Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835, 842, 103 S. Ct. 2690,
2696, 77 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1983) (citing Swann v. Adams, 385 U.S. 440, 444, 87 S.Ct. 569, 572, 17
L.Ed.2d 501 (1967)). To justify a plan with deviations exceeding the threshold 10%, the state
must first demonstrate that its plan “may reasonably be said to advance a rational state policy,”
which is applied in a manner “free from the taint of arbitrariness or discrimination.” Id. at 843
(citing Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 328, 93 S.Ct. 979, 987, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973) and
Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695, 710, 84 S.Ct. 1449, 1458, 12 L.Ed.2d 620 (1964)). However,
even if the state can identify a rational state policy and show that its plan furthers that policy, the
divergences must still be within “tolerable limits.” Mahan, 410 U.S. at 326. The Court has
explained that a “State's policy urged in justification of disparity in district population, however
rational, cannot constitutionally be permitted to emasculate the goal of substantial equality.”
Using this analysis the Court has upheld a plan with a justified maximum deviation of 16.4%, but
noted that “this percentage may well approach tolerable limits.” Id.
Before turning to the application of the substantive federal law governing state
reapportionment claims under the Equal Protection Clause, we consider the various jurisdictional
and prudential arguments raised by the Defendants. First, the Defendants argue that the Plaintiffs
lack standing to pursue these claims in federal court because they have suffered no cognizable
injury. [R, 75-1 at 5, R. 84-1 at 3, R. 86 at 5]. However, the Defendants reach this conclusion by
mischaracterizing the nature of the Plaintiffs’ claims. The Plaintiffs are not asserting a right for
legislative electoral districts to be in place by a certain time or for the right to vote for a certain
candidate. Instead, the Plaintiffs claim that the legislative electoral districts of Kentucky have
become malapportioned due to the passage of time and population shifts, and as a result, their
own voting power has been and remains improperly diluted. [R. 88 at 5]. The United States
Supreme Court found standing to maintain a claim for such an injury in Baker v. Carr. The
Supreme Court stated that “voters who allege facts showing disadvantage to themselves as
individuals have standing to sue.” Baker, 369 U.S. at 206 (citing Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S.
549, 66 S.Ct. 1198, 90 L.Ed. 1432 (1946)). For the same reasons, these Plaintiff voters have
The Court has calculated the maximum deviation by combining the largest deviation above the ideal legislative
district and the largest deviation below the ideal legislative district. See Conner v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407, 416-17. 97
advanced a sufficiently cognizable injury to afford them standing to assert their claims in this
The Defendants also argue that time is against the Plaintiffs, as their claims are either not
ripe, moot, or barred by the statute of limitations. [R. 75-1 at 3, 35, 38; R. 88 at 11]. However,
because the Plaintiffs in this case are similarly situated to those in Baker v. Carr and Reynolds,
their claims are no more or less ripe, moot, or time barred. The reason for this is clear. The
injury claimed by the Plaintiffs is vote dilution caused by malapportionment of the 2002
legislative districts, which is an injury that is current and on-going. [R. 88 at 10]. Further, as
those districts are still in place, nothing has occurred to render them moot.3 Therefore, the court
is not barred from hearing this matter on ripeness or mootness grounds.
Concerning the statute of limitations, the Plaintiffs have filed their claims pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §1983. This was the same statutory section under which the Baker v. Carr and Reynolds
plaintiffs filed their claims, and yet the sixty years that separated them from the enactment of the
challenged electoral district did not render their claim time barred. The court did not specifically
articulate the reason for this, and the few courts that have subsequently considered this issue have
not reached an agreement. In Jeffers v. Clinton, a concurring member of the three-judge panel
wrote, agreeing with the majority: “It is true…that this is a suit in equity. It is therefore not
governed by any statute of limitations.” 730 F. Supp. 196, 224 (E.D. Ark. 1989), aff'd, 498 U.S.
1019, 111 S. Ct. 662, 112 L. Ed. 2d 656 (1991). However, that judge noted: “Still, it is important
S.Ct. 1828, 53 L.Ed.2d 465 (1977); Brown, 462 U.S. at 838-39; Mahan, 410 U.S. at 318-19.
The Legislative Research Commission’s contention that Fischer IV’s invalidation of the 2012 districts has mooted
these claims is unavailing. [R. 75-1 at 35]. As previously discussed, the claims at issue in this motion are based
exclusively on the validity of the 2002 lines, the constitutionality of which was not directly addressed by the
Kentucky Supreme Court in Fischer IV.
to remember that in Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, ––––, 109 S.Ct. 573, 583, 102 L.Ed.2d 594
(1989), the Supreme Court held that a state's general or residual statute of limitations should be
applied to Section 1983 claims.” Id.
In Blackmoon v. Charles Mix Cnty., another three-judge district court considered this
issue in the context of the continued use of malapportioned legislative electoral districts, and
found that though the statute of limitations corresponding to Section 1983 actions filed in South
Dakota applied, the violation renews itself each time an election is held. 386 F. Supp. 2d 1108,
1115 (D.S.D. 2005). The Defendants have presented no authority nor has the court uncovered
any case in which a district court has dismissed a claim like this one on the grounds that it was
time barred by the statute of limitations. It is questionable as to whether the equities would favor
such a rule, which would in some ways discourage voters from affording the legislature
sufficient time to redistrict on its own accord out of fear that they might lose their claim due to
the strict statute of limitations. However, to the extent such a rule has been applied in this
context, it would not bar these plaintiffs. It is generally true that “Section 1983 actions in
Kentucky are limited by the one-year statute of limitations found in section 413.140(1).”
Collard v. Ky Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir. 1990). Even if this somewhat stringent
time bar were to govern this action, the most recent election was held in November of 2012,
meaning that the Plaintiffs would have filed their claims4 well within the one-year period.5
Therefore, the statute of limitations is no bar to the Plaintiffs’ ability to assert these claims.
The Brown and Herbert Plaintiffs filed their claims on April 26, 2013 and May 10, 2013, respectively.
Additionally, the Defendants claim that the Kentucky Supreme Court already considered
and ruled on the propriety of the 2002 electoral lines in Fischer IV. As a result, the Defendants
argue that this court is barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, and the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine from considering these claims. [R. 75-1 at 37; R. 84 at 9; R. 86 at 10].
In making a determination of the preclusive effect of a state-court judgment “the Full
Faith and Credit Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, requires the federal court to give the prior adjudication
the same preclusive effect it would have under the law of the state whose court issued the
judgment.” Stemler v. Florence, 350 F.3d 578, 586 (6th Cir. 2003). As defined in Kentucky, the
res judicata doctrine “stands for the principle that once the rights of parties have been finally
determined, the litigation should end.” Coomer v. CSX Transp., Inc., 319 S.W.3d 366, 371 (Ky.
2010) (citing Slone v. R & S Mining Inc., 74 S.W.3d 259, 261 (Ky. 2002)). For res judicata to
serve as a bar under Kentucky law, three requirements must be satisfied:
First, there must be identity of the parties. Second, there must be identity of the
two causes of action. Third, the action must be decided on its merits. In short, the
rule of res judicata does not act as a bar if there are different issues or the
questions of law presented are different. City of Louisville v. Louisville Prof'l
Firefighters Ass'n, 813 S.W.2d 804, 806 (Ky.1991) (quoting Newman v. Newman,
451 S.W.2d 417, 419 (Ky.1970)).
Smith v. Bob Smith Chevrolet, Inc., 275 F. Supp. 2d 808, 813 (W.D. Ky. 2003)(emphasis added).
Collateral estoppel “dictates that once a court has decided an issue of fact or law necessary to its
judgment, that decision may preclude relitigation of the issue in a suit on a different cause of
action involving a party to the first case.” N.L.R.B. v. Kentucky May Coal Co., Inc., 89 F.3d
To be clear, though the court finds that the Plaintiffs’ claims in this action are not time barred, it does not
necessarily hold that legislative reapportionment claims filed pursuant to Section 1983 must be filed within one year
of the previous election.
1235, 1239 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing N.A.A.C.P., Detroit Branch v. Detroit Police Officers Ass'n,
821 F.2d 328, 330 (6th Cir.1987)). For collateral estoppel to preclude the relitigation of an issue,
four requirements must be met:
(1) the precise issue raised in the present case must have been raised and actually
litigated in the prior proceeding; (2) determination of the issue must have been
necessary to the outcome of the prior proceeding; (3) the prior proceeding must
have resulted in a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the party against whom
estoppel is sought must have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in
the prior proceeding.
Neither res judicata nor collateral estoppel operate to bar the Plaintiffs’ challenge to the
2002 legislative redistricting plans on federal equal protection grounds, since this issue has not
been previously litigated in any court. As has been discussed, Fischer IV expressly limited its
consideration to the propriety of the 2012 electoral districts under state law. In the words of the
Kentucky Supreme Court, “this Court concludes that House Bill 1 (2012), the reapportionment
act of 2012, is facially unconstitutional in violation of Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution,
as construed by Fischer v. State Board of Elections, 879 S.W.2d 475 (Ky.1994).” See Fischer,
2012 WL 952983, at *1. To make the matter more clear, the court added “Our holding that
House Bill 1 is unconstitutional is based not upon federal law, but upon Section 33 of the
Kentucky Constitution.” Fischer IV, 366 S.W.3d 911. As the court did not undertake to
consider on the merits whether the 2002 legislative districts were unconstitutional on federal
equal protection grounds, these Plaintiffs are not barred by the doctrines of res judicata or
collateral estoppel from raising the federal claims for the first time in this court.6
The Kentucky Supreme Court did, however, make reference to the 2002 lines when it
fashioned its remedy in Fisher IV. As previously detailed, the Fischer IV court upheld the
injunction of the Franklin Circuit Court, which prohibited any elections from taking place under
the 2012 lines. As a result, the Kentucky Supreme Court stated, “This means that the 2012
elections will be conducted using the districts as enacted in the 2002 Ky. Act and codified in
KRS 5.200, et seq.” Id. at 917. The Defendants argue that because this conclusion was
incorporated in the Kentucky Supreme Court’s judgment, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
precludes this court from considering it. [R. 75-1 at 37; R. 84 at 9; R. 86 at 10].
“The Rooker–Feldman doctrine bars lower federal courts from conducting appellate
review of final state-court judgments because 28 U.S.C. § 1257 vests sole jurisdiction to review
such claims in the Supreme Court.” Berry v. Schmitt, 688 F.3d 290, 298 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing
Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 291, 125 S.Ct. 1517, 161 L.Ed.2d
454 (2005)). This doctrine “applies only where a state-court loser initiates an action in federal
district court, complaining of injury caused by a state court judgment, and seeks review and
rejection of that judgment.” Id. (citing In re Cook, 551 F.3d 542, 548 (6th Cir.2009)).
As an initial matter, it should be reiterated that the Kentucky Supreme Court’s opinion in
no way endorses the federal constitutionality of the 2002 legislative districts such that a
determination of this court that they are invalid under the Constitution of the United States would
Nor can it be said that the Plaintiffs of Fischer IV were required to bring any federal claim against the 2002 lines in
Fischer IV in order to preserve them. At the time the action was initiated, the 2002 lines had been replaced by the
serve as a reversal of the decision of that court. On the contrary, the Kentucky Supreme Court
recognized the LRC’s objection to using the 2002 lines on the basis that they were
unconstitutional and stated, “Although we do not doubt the LRC's population deviation numbers
among the 2002 districts, these are the only legislative districts capable of implementation at this
juncture.” Fischer IV, 366 S.W.3d at 917. The court went on to explain that in light of the
approaching elections “practically speaking, it is now too late to conduct the 2012 elections
under the Bill’s districts.” Id. From the express words of its opinion, it is clear that the
Kentucky Supreme Court saw the 2002 electoral districts only as a temporary and imperfect
result of its decision that was unavoidable for practical reasons. The opinion could hardly
support a conclusion that the Kentucky Supreme Court adjudicated the issue of the
constitutionality of the 2002 electoral districts.
However, even if the argument could be made that the Kentucky Supreme Court’s
opinion in Fischer IV established the 2002 lines as constitutionally sufficient for the 2012
elections, nothing in the opinion could be construed as extending its judgment any further.
Importantly, the court recognized that “despite the resulting temporary imbalanced
representation, ensuring the orderly process of the 2012 elections requires the 2002 redistricting
plan remain in effect, as ordered by the trial court.” Id. at 919 (emphasis added). The Plaintiffs
have made clear that the claims underlying their motion for summary judgment were not based
on a state-court judgment relative to the 2012 elections, but are for “declaratory and prospective
injunctive relief to bar Defendants’ use of the 2002 legislative maps in future elections. [R. 88 at
12] (emphasis in the original). The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has in similar cases, “declined
2012 districts, which were rightfully the subject of their claim.
to apply Rooker–Feldman to claims for prospective relief.” Berry, 688 F.3d at 300 (citing Hood
v. Keller, 341 F.3d 593 (6th Cir. 2003)). For example, the Court has held that “Rooker–Feldman
did not apply because the plaintiff did not ‘demand to set aside the verdict or the state court
ruling,’ but instead ‘[sought] injunctive and declaratory relief prohibiting’ future enforcement.”
Id. (quoting Hood, 341 F.3d at 593 (6th Cir. 2003)). Therefore, due to the nature of the issues
decided in the Kentucky Supreme Court, as well as the nature of relief sought by the Plaintiffs in
this motion, Rooker-Feldman operates as no bar.
In applying the Equal Protection Clause analysis to the circumstances of this case, the
relevant population figures at issue are not in dispute. According to the 2010 Census, Kentucky
has a population of 4,339,367 people, which marks an increase of almost 300,000 people
(7.36%) over the past ten years. [R. 67-3 at 5].7 The population figures indicated that the growth
was not uniformly spread throughout the state, as the growth of 32 counties exceeded the
statewide average, while 36 counties lost population. [Id. at 6]. For example, Boone County
experienced a 38.17% increase in population while Breathitt County experienced a 13.8%
decrease. [Id.] Overall, Kentucky’s five most populous counties, Jefferson, Fayette, Kenton,
Boone, and Warren, accounted for 40% of the Commonwealth’s total population growth over the
past ten years. [R. 67-1 at 2].
To determine the maximum deviation percentages that are relevant to the Equal
Protection Clause analysis, the court must: (1) calculate the ideal legislative district by dividing
These population figures are derived from the uncontested report of the Plaintiffs’ expert William S. Cooper, who
based his analysis on the data generated by the 2010 United States Census.
the total population by the number of legislative districts; (2) identify the districts of the
challenged plan with the largest deviations above and below the ideal legislative district; and (3)
measure the difference between the deviations of those districts.8 See Conner, 431 U.S. at 41617, 97 S.Ct. 1828, 53 L.Ed.2d 465 (1977); Brown, 462 U.S. at 838-43; Mahan, 410 U.S. at 31819, 326. Pursuant to its constitution, Kentucky’s population is to be apportioned among 100
seats in the House of Representatives and 38 seats in the Senate. Ky. Const. § 33. Therefore,
considering a total population of 4,339,367, the ideal population size for a House and Senate
district is 43,394 and 114,194 respectively. This is the same conclusion reached by the Kentucky
Supreme Court, the Franklin Circuit Court, and all of the parties in Fischer IV. 366 S.W.3d at
Under the 2002 redistricting plan, House District 60, which includes Boone County, now
encompasses of total population of 61,922, which deviates 42.70% above the ideal house district
population of 43,394. [R. 67-23 at 11].9 In contrast, House District 43, which includes part of
Jefferson County, contains a population of just 35,580, which deviates 18.01% below the ideal
house district. [Id. at 10]. Combined, this constitutes a maximum deviation of 60.71% in the
Kentucky House of Representatives. As constituted under the 2002 reapportionment plan,
Senate District 11, which includes Boone, Gallatin, and Kenton counties, encompasses a total
Though this is the method of calculating the percentage relevant to the federal equal-protection analysis, it bears
noting that a different computation has been employed by Kentucky state courts for purposes of the 5% Rule derived
from the Kentucky Constitution. To determine whether the 5% Rule had been violated, the Kentucky Supreme
Court in Fischer IV simply calculated the population figure for the ideal district and then determined whether any of
the plan’s districts deviated either above or below that number by 5%. Fischer IV, 366 S.W.3d at 905 (“We find that
House Bill 1 does not comply with the Fischer II 5 percent rule because at least one district in both the House and
Senate exceeds 5 percent population deviation from the ideal district.”).
The population figures of this exhibit are derived from the uncontested report of James S. Horton, the G.I.S.
Specialist for the Boone County Planning Commission, who based his analysis on the 2010 U.S. Census.
population of 137,257, which deviates 20.20% above the ideal senate district population of
114,194. [Id. at 12]. In contrast, Senate District 29, which includes Breathitt, Floyd, Knott, and
Letcher counties, contains a population of only 94,194, which deviates 17.51% below the ideal
senate district. Id. Combined, this constitutes a maximum deviation of 37.71% in the Kentucky
Senate. As is evident from these resulting percentages, which are not contested by the parties,
the 2002 legislative reapportionment plan that is currently in force in Kentucky is
malapportioned well above the 10% maximum deviation required for a finding that the plan is
presumptively unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
However, the Defendants argue that the 2002 plan is the product of an “honest and good
faith effort to redistrict,” and that the resulting deviation is justified under the rational state policy
of preserving county integrity. [R. 75-1 at 9-11; R. 84 at 6; R. 86 at 3]. County integrity, of
course, has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court as a rational and legitimate state
policy that may justify deviations from what would ordinarily be considered the tolerable limits.
Brown, 462 U.S. at 843 (citing Abate v. Mundt, 403 U.S. 182, 185, 91 S.Ct. 1904, 1906-07, 29
L.Ed.2d 399 (1971)).10 This policy is enshrined in the Kentucky Constitution, and the General
Assembly as well as the state courts have consistently labored over time to protect the county
subdivision from being unnecessarily fractured. However, even acknowledging the rationality of
this legitimate state policy, the deviations arising from the plan must forward this policy and be
free from the “taint of arbitrariness.” Id. The reality of the present circumstances is that the
As recognized by the Defendants, in Brown the Supreme Court upheld a maximum deviation of 89%. 462 U.S. at
846. However, the Court limited the scope of its holding by focusing on the unique circumstances at issue in the
state of Wyoming and the unusually limited nature of the challenge brought by the Plaintiffs. Unlike the Wyoming
defendants in Brown, these Kentucky Defendants have not sufficiently justified their plan’s unconstitutional
deviation from the acceptable limits, irrespective of how much greater than 10% it might now be.
maximum deviation of over 60% in the House of Representatives and nearly 40% in the Senate
are not minor deviations that have narrowly missed the appropriate threshold in a legitimate
attempt to preserve the integrity of Kentucky’s counties. Instead, the LRC itself argued in
Fischer IV that the 2002 lines significantly deviated from the ideal districts, and the Kentucky
Supreme Court stated that the 2002 districts were being used for no other reason than that they
were “the only legislative districts capable of implementation” after the 2012 reapportionment
plan had been declared unconstitutional shortly before the 2012 elections. 366 S.W.3d at 917.
These deviations have resulted from the failure of the Kentucky General Assembly to timely
enact a constitutional plan for legislative reapportionment, which is not a rational and legitimate
justification for the gross deviations of Kentucky’s current electoral districts.
The Plaintiffs request that the court grant their motion for summary judgment and
formally enter a declaratory judgment that the 2002 electoral districts currently in force in
Kentucky are unconstitutional and enter a permanent injunction barring their use in any future
election. [R. 67 at 1]. The Defendants argue that this matter is not susceptible to decision by
declaratory judgment or permanent injunction. [R. 75-1 at 7; R. 84 at 5; R. 86 at 7].
As an initial matter, it should be noted that the Supreme Court has authorized federal
district courts to take remedial action when state legislative districts are found to be
unconstitutionally malapportioned. Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 585. In fact, the action requested by
the Plaintiffs is similar to that approved by the Supreme Court in Reynolds, where the district
court alerted the parties to the unconstitutional nature of the districts currently in place, allowed
the General Assembly to enact new reapportionment plans with this guidance, and then
conducted a trial to either find these plans constitutional or craft a temporary plan to govern the
upcoming elections. Id. at 586. Additionally, as noted by the Plaintiffs, other three-judge district
courts have fashioned similar relief to similarly situated plaintiffs. See Honsey v. Donovan, 236
F. Supp. 8, 15-16 (D. Minn. 1964) (then-Circuit Judge Harry Blackmun writing for a three-judge
district court, holding in1964 that apportionment plan enacted in 1959 and based on updated
1950 census figures was unconstitutional); Flateau v. Anderson, 537 F. Supp. 257 (S.D.N.Y.
1982). 458 U.S. 1123 (1983)(invalidating a 1982 an apportionment scheme enacted in 1974
based on 1970 census data).
Courts generally consider the following factors in determining whether it is appropriate to
enter declaratory judgment:
(1) whether the judgment would settle the controversy; (2) whether the
declaratory judgment action would serve a useful purpose in clarifying the legal
relations at issue; (3) whether the declaratory remedy is being used merely for the
purpose of “procedural fencing” or “to provide an arena for a race for res
judicata”; (4) whether the use of a declaratory action would increase the friction
between our federal and state courts and improperly encroach on state
jurisdiction; and (5) whether there is an alternative remedy that is better or more
Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. Roumph, 211 F.3d 964, 968 (6th Cir. 2000). Though it is somewhat
remarkable the parties disagree that the 2002 legislative lines are unconstitutional under the
Equal Protection Clause, voluminous adversarial briefs on the matter indicate that a judgment on
the issue would settle that particular part of this controversy and helpfully clarify these important
legal issues ahead of the approaching special legislative session. There is currently no action
pending in the Kentucky state courts, and this opinion has taken care to demonstrate that any
declaration would not induce friction with previous state court rulings. The alternative remedies
suggested by the Plaintiffs, to either revive the 2012 plan or simply abstain from doing anything,
would either needlessly promote more friction with the state courts or constitute a complete
abdication of the duties required of this court. As it is difficult to conceive of a more effective
remedy, declaratory judgment is appropriate in this case.
“A plaintiff seeking a permanent injunction must demonstrate that it has suffered
irreparable injury, there is no adequate remedy at law, ‘that, considering the balance of hardships
between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted,’ and that it is in the public's
interest to issue the injunction.” Audi AG v. D'Amato, 469 F.3d 534, 550 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting
eBay Inc., et al. v. MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 126 S.Ct. 1837, 1839, 164 L.Ed.2d 641
(2006)). In this case, the Plaintiffs have shown that legislative malapportionment has and
continues to cause them irreparable injury in the form of vote dilution, for which there is no
remedy at law. The substantial deviations of the electoral districts from constitutional
acceptability tilt the equities in favor of the Plaintiffs and overwhelmingly demonstrate that
injunctive relief is in the best interest of the public. Further, in contrast to the characterization of
the Defendants, the Plainitffs requested injunctive relief would merely operate to constrain
enforcement of the legislative electoral districts, rather than compel legislative action on the part
of the General Assembly.
Therefore, there being no genuine dispute of material fact that the 2002 state legislative
electoral districts, which are currently in place in Kentucky, are so malapportioned that the
voting power of some citizens of the Commonwealth is diluted in violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, we hereby declare the 2002 districts invalid
under the Constitution of the United States of America and permanently enjoin any further
elections from being held pursuant to those districts.
Nearly as important as what this court does hold is what it does not. In reaching the
aforementioned conclusion, the court makes no determination that the 2012 elections are in any
way constitutionally infirm by virtue of the fact that they were conducted pursuant to the 2002
Reapportionment Rlan. In their complaint, the Brown Plaintiffs did seek “money damages for
past constitutional violations by Defendants in failing to redistrict in a constitutional manner in
time for the May, 2012 primary and November, 2012 general elections.” [R. 1 at 18]. However,
this was their only claim related to the 2012 elections, and it was expressly withdrawn without
prejudice at the scheduling conference. [R. 50 at 35-38].11 This court again recognized the
effectiveness of that withdrawal in a subsequent Order. [R. 48 at 3-4].
In a lengthy and well-reasoned motion, the Legislative Research Commission has sought
dismissal of the 2012 election claims with prejudice, and it may very well be that the dismissal of
these claims with prejudice would have been appropriate had they not already been withdrawn.
[R. 68]. However, “[s]ince those claims were withdrawn before the court adjudicated them, there
is now nothing left for the Court to dismiss, either with prejudice or without.” White v.
Integrated Elec. Tech., Inc., CIV.A. 11-2186, 2012 WL 893437, at *1 (E.D. La. Mar. 15, 2012);
see also, Strax v. Commodity Exch., Inc., 524 F. Supp. 936, 938 (S.D.N.Y. 1981) (“[D]efendants
Specifically, at the scheduling conference, counsel for the Brown Plaintiffs stated that, “my clients are more
concerned with the 2014 election process. The past damages or anything else, we are willing – in fact we indicated
in a filing late yesterday that we are willing, frankly, to forego certain claims because we want to make sure…that
what this action is all about is conducting 2014 elections in a timely and orderly manner with constitutional maps.”).
[R. 50 at 35-38].
request that the court decide their motions to dismiss the withdrawn claims with prejudice.
However, since the claims have been withdrawn, the motions to dismiss them are moot.”).
Therefore, though the Legislative Research Commission’s motion shall be denied as moot,
nothing in this Opinion shall operate to disturb the 2012 elections that were conducted pursuant
to the 2002 electoral districts.
In addition, by its decision herein the court does not in any way seek to enjoin the
Kentucky General Assembly from accomplishing its stated goal of enacting a constitutional plan
of reapportionment in the August 19, 2013 special legislative session. In fact, the clear
motivations of the court in issuing this opinion in advance of the General Assembly’s special
legislative session is to articulate the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause and
conclusively determine whether the 2002 electoral lines constitute a viable fallback option if the
General Assembly were to be unsuccessful in agreeing on a new plan for reapportionment.
Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 556. After all, the most desirable outcome of this case for all parties is for
the Kentucky General Assembly to enact a constitutional plan for state legislative
reapportionment, thereby accomplishing the admittedly difficult task primarily allocated to them
as the state legislative body. The court’s approach is sufficiently restrained to allow the General
Assembly to do just that.
However, the court remains resolute that the method of procedure outlined in the
Scheduling Order is appropriate. [R. 49]. The entry of this Order does not fully resolve this case
nor terminate the court’s jurisdiction. Following the special legislative session, the parties shall
have the opportunity to amend their pleadings, make final dispositive motions, and, if necessary,
proceed to trial in hopes of ensuring that constitutional legislative districts are in place in
advance of the November 4, 2013 residency requirement of Section 32 of the Kentucky
Constitution.12 To be clear, in no previous Order has the court specifically held that the
November 4, 2013 residency deadline is a date by which the General Assembly is bound by the
United States Constitution to have a new reapportionment plan in place, and it does not do so
herein. While the Supreme Court has suggested that delaying beyond decennial reapportionment
is constitutionally suspect, neither it nor the Kentucky Supreme Court have affixed a definite
time by which states must pass reapportionment legislation. Reynolds, 337 U.S. at 584.
However, this court has chosen November 4, 2013 as the target date for resolution of this matter
for the practical purposes of: (1) allowing the legislature sufficient time to meet in the August
19, 2013 special session to make another attempt at reapportionment; (2) accommodating the
residency requirement of Section 32 of the Kentucky Constitution, which if not honored could be
applied punitively in the redistricting process; (3) ensuring that constitutional districts can be
implemented in time for the May 2014 primary elections; and (4) reserving a period of time for
appeal or further meeting of the General Assembly should the defendants or the legislature be
dissatisfied with any decision of this court.
The Kentucky Secretary of State informs the court that any electoral districts to be
implemented for the May 2014 primary elections must be in place no later than January 28, 2014.
[R. 81 at 4]. She also notes that the court’s Scheduling Order would allow for all of the
necessary constitutional and statutory prerequisites to conducting an election to be met in
Section 32 of the Kentucky Constitution sets forth the qualifications to be a senator or representative in the
Commonwealth, and states that a candidate must have been a resident of the district in which he is running as a
candidate for a year prior to the election.
advance of the 2014 primaries. [Id.] Therefore, the court shall continue to follow the process
previously set forth in its Scheduling Order, which shall ensure that, whether by legislatively
enacted maps of the Kentucky General Assembly or remedial action of this court, the votes of the
citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shall all carry equal weight for the elections of 2014.
Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED, as follows:
The Plaintiffs’ Joint Motion for Summary Judgment [R. 67] is GRANTED;
The 2002 state legislative electoral districts, which are currently in place in the
Commonwealth of Kentucky, are DECLARED Unconstitutional under the Equal Protection
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment;
The Secretary of State of Kentucky and the Kentucky Board of Elections are
PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from administering further elections pursuant to those districts;
The Legislative Research Commission’s Motion to Dismiss 2012 Elections
Claims [R. 68] is DENIED, as moot.
This 16th day of August, 2013.
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