October 30, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Nos. 87 C 5112 and 88
C 9800 - Robert W. Gettleman, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Bauer and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.
Robert McCoy and Kevin Perkins ("Appellants")
appeal from the district court's order approving as
constitutional a reapportioned map of aldermanic districts in
the City of Chicago Heights ("the City"). The City
redrew the ward boundaries pursuant to a consent decree
entered in 2010, after decades of litigation. After an
evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled that the City
had sufficiently justified the population deviations in its
proposed map. We affirm.
case began in 1987, when a class of African-American
plaintiffs filed suits against the City and the Chicago
Heights Park District, alleging dilution of voting
opportunity and challenging the methods for electing
representatives to the City Council and the Park District
Board. We will briefly summarize the relevant facts, but the
long history of this litigation has been well documented
through numerous written opinions. See Harper v. City of
Chicago Heights, 223 F.3d 593, 596 (7th Cir. 2000)
(summarizing and listing previous decisions).
in the litigation, the election practices at issue were found
to violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42
U.S.C. § 1971, et seq. (currently cited as 52
U.S.C. § 10101). That finding set in motion an arduous
process of attempting to remedy the violation through the
establishment of a consent decree, which included a number of
appeals and remands. Appellants split from the other class
plaintiffs in 1994, and objected to the entry of the first
consent decree. Since that time, they have remained as the
main opposition to the proposed remedies for the violation.
November 2010, the district court entered the most recent
consent decree ("the Decree"), which, despite its
goal of settling all outstanding disputes, forms the basis
for this appeal. The Decree established a seven-ward, single
alder-manic form of government, and included a ward map that
complied with the applicable constitutional requirements. The
Decree also contained a provision requiring the City to
reapportion the wards as the population changed.
the Decree was entered, the 2010 census results showed that
the wards' populations had changed such that the map
required reapportionment. Accordingly, the City endeavored to
redraw the wards to comply with the Decree. On June 20, 2014,
after a public comment process, the City passed an ordinance
approving its redrawn ward map. Then, on October 22, 2014,
the City filed a motion in the district court seeking
approval of its redrawn map as constitutional. Appellants
responded, objecting to the City's proposed map and
seeking leave to file their own ward map for approval and
implementation by the court.
initial matter, the court held that the Decree did not allow
for Appellants to propose their own ward map. Instead, it
found that the Decree gave the City the exclusive right to
reapportion the wards. Therefore, the court only considered
the City's proposed map.
City's map still contained seven wards, each with an
individual population deviation of less than ten percent.
However, the overall deviation of the proposed map was
12.65%. Therefore, the court denied without prejudice the
City's motion to approve the new map. The court gave the
City the option of either submitting justification for the
deviation or proposing a new map that would bring the overall
deviation under ten percent. The City elected to submit a
supplemental brief providing its justifications, and the
court held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether those
were sufficient to support the overall population deviation.
the court found that the City had presented sufficient
justification and had made a good faith effort to reapportion
the map with the smallest population deviations practicable.
It found that the City used legitimate and nondiscriminatory
objectives in reapportioning the wards, such as maintaining
historical and natural boundary lines where possible, and
easing voter confusion by redrawing unusual boundaries. For
those reasons, the court held that the City had complied with
the Decree, and it approved the City's proposed map as