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City of Mobile v. Bolden

United States Supreme Court
446 U.S. 55 (1980)


Facts

The City of Mobile, Alabama (defendant) was governed in all aspects by its City Commission. The City Commission consisted of three elected members that jointly exercised all legislative, executive, and administrative powers in the municipality. As required by state law, each candidate for the Mobile City Commission ran for election for a term of four years in one of three numbered posts and could be elected only by a majority of the total vote. Since each Commissioner was elected by the entire city, the practical result of this system was that it was more difficult for a geographically concentrated constituency, such as African Americans, to elect a Commission sympathetic to their interests. As a result, there had never been an African American Commissioner elected. Bolden (plaintiff) filed a class action suit on behalf of all the City’s African American residents in federal district court alleging that the city’s electoral system violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The district court held for Bolden, finding the City’s process unconstitutional. The court of appeals affirmed, and the City of Mobile appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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Dissent (White, J.)

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