NAACP V. NEW YORK, 413 U. S. 345 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NAACP v. New York, 413 U.S. 345 (1973)

National Association for the Advancement

of Colored People v. New York

No. 72-129

Argued February 27-28, 1973

Decided June 21, 1973

413 U.S. 345


Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, are designed to prohibit the use of tests or devices, or the alteration of voting qualifications or procedures, when the purpose or effect is to deprive a citizen of his right to vote. Sections 4 and 5 apply in any State or political subdivision thereof which the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, or November 1, 1968, any "test or device," and with respect to which the Director of the Census Bureau determines that less than half the voting-age residents were registered, or that less than half voted in the presidential election of that November. These determinations are effective on publication and are not judicially reviewable. Publication suspends the effectiveness of the test or device, which may not then be utilized unless a three-judge District Court for the District of Columbia determines that no such test or device has been used during the 10 preceding years "for the purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color." Section 4(a) provides for direct appeal to the Supreme Court. The State or political subdivision may also institute an action pursuant to § 5 in the District Court for the District of Columbia, for a declaratory judgment that a proposed alteration in voting qualifications or procedures "does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color." The statute also permits the change to be enforced without the court proceeding if it has been submitted to the Attorney General and he has not interposed an objection within 60 days. Neither the Attorney General's failure to object nor a § 5 declaratory judgment bars a subsequent private action to enjoin enforcement of the change. Such an action shall also be determined by a three-judge court and is appealable to the Supreme

Page 413 U. S. 346

Court. The Attorney General, on July 31, 1970, filed with the Federal Register his determination that New York on November 1, 1968, maintained a test or device as defined in the Act, and this was published the next day. On March 27, 1971, the Federal Register published the Census Director's determination that in the counties of Bronx, Kings, and New York, "less than 50 per centum of the persons of voting age residing therein voted in the presidential election of November 1968." New York State filed an action on December 3, 1971, seeking a judgment declaring that, during the preceding 10 years, the three counties had not used the State's voting qualifications "for the purpose or with the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color," and that §§ 4 and 5 were thus inapplicable to the counties. Pursuant to stipulation, the United States filed its answer on March 10, 1972, alleging, inter alia, that it was without knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of New York's allegation that the literacy tests were not administered discriminatorily. On March 17, New York filed a motion for summary judgment, supported by affidavits, and, on April 3, the United States formally consented to the entry of the declaratory judgment sought by the State. Appellants filed their motion to intervene on April 7. New York opposed the motion claiming that: it was untimely, as the suit had been pending for more than four months; it had been publicized in early February, and appellants did not deny that they knew the action was pending; appellants failed to allege appropriate supporting facts; no appellant claimed to be a victim of voting discrimination; appellants' interests were adequately represented by the United States; delay would prejudice impending elections; and appellants still could raise discrimination issues in the state and federal courts of New York. On April 13, the three-judge court denied the motion to intervene and granted summary judgment for New York. While the appeal was pending, it was disclosed that the attorney who executed affidavits for appellants had not begun employment with appellant NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc., until March 9, 1972, and that Justice Department attorneys met with two individual appellants in January, 1972, during the course of their investigation.


1. The words "any appeal" in § 4(a) encompass an appeal by a would-be, but unsuccessful, intervenor, and appellants' appeal properly lies to this Court. Pp. 413 U. S. 353-356.

2. The motion to intervene was untimely, and, in the light of that fact and all the other circumstances of this case, the District

Page 413 U. S. 347

Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. Pp. 364 369.


BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 413 U. S. 369, and BRENNAN, J., post, p. 413 U. S. 372, filed dissenting opinions. MARSHALL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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