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Colegrove v. Green

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Significance: The Supreme Court declared reapportionment to be a political question and therefore not justiciable. This decision blocked all judicial efforts to correct malapportionment of legislative district boundaries until it was overturned in 1962.


Qualified Illinois voters challenged their state's U.S. congressional districts, alleging a lack of compactness and equality. Following prevailing precedents, a three-judge district panel dismissed the case, and the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's decision by a 4-3 vote. Only seven justices participated in this case because Harlan Fiske Stone had died recently and Robert H. Jackson was at the Nuremberg trials. Justice Felix Frankfurter, in his majority opinion, argued that reapportionment was a political question best left to state legislatures under congressional oversight if necessary. Given the division within the Court, the issue was certain to be revisited, but it was sixteen years before the Court allowed the justiciability of reapportionment in Baker v. Carr (1962), justifying its decision with the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.