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Luna v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 1, 2017

OSCAR LUNA, ALICIA PUENTES, DOROTHY VELASQUEZ, and GARY RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN; KERN COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS; MICK GLEASON, ZACK SCRIVNER, MIKE MAGGARD, DAVID COUCH, and LETICIA PEREZ, in their official capacities as members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors; JOHN NILON, in his official capacity as Kern County Administrative Officer; and MARY B. BEDARD, in her official capacity as Kern County Registrar of Voters, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 39)

         This matter comes before the court on plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. A hearing on the motion was held on May 2, 2017. Attorneys Denise Hulett and Matthew Barragan appeared on behalf of plaintiffs. Attorneys Marguerite Leoni and Christopher Skinnell appeared on behalf of defendants. Having considered the parties' briefs and oral arguments and for the reasons set forth below, the court will deny plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Every ten years, following each decennial census and in accordance with state and federal law, Kern County (“County”) must redraw single-member electoral districts for its five-member Board of Supervisors. (JSUF ¶ 14.) In 2011, the County conducted a number of public workshops and held four formal public hearings, before adopting a new redistricting plan based in part on recently released census data. (See JSUF ¶¶ 15-20.) The resulting supervisorial district map (the “Adopted Map”) largely maintains the one preexisting majority-Latino supervisorial district in Kern County-District 5-where Latinos constitute a majority of that district's total citizen voting age population (“CVAP”). (See JSUF ¶¶ 12-13; Declaration of Denise Hulett (Doc. Nos. 39-5) (“Hulett Decl.”), Ex. 1.)

         In the decade preceding the 2011 redistricting plan, however, Kern County experienced significant population growth, particularly among its Latino population. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the total population in Kern County grew from 661, 645 to 839, 631 persons over the prior ten years. (JSUF ¶¶ 8, 10.) Over that same period of time, the Latino population grew significantly-from 38 percent to 49 percent of the total population-representing most of the County's overall population growth. (Id.) Similarly, among CVAP in Kern County, the Latino population grew from 25 percent to 34 percent. (See Compl. ¶¶ 16-17; JSUF ¶ 9.)

         Plaintiffs, Latino citizens and registered voters in Kern County, commenced this action on April 22, 2016, seeking to enjoin the County's 2011 redistricting plan. (Compl.; see also JSUF ¶ 2.) In particular, plaintiffs allege that due to the growth and geographic distribution of the Latino population in Kern County, it is possible to draw a second majority-Latino supervisorial district. Plaintiffs also allege that racially polarized voting persists in County supervisorial elections. As a result, plaintiffs claim, the 2011 redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it impermissibly dilutes the Latino vote in Kern County. (See Compl. ¶ 41.)

         Following discovery, plaintiffs have brought a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to the first precondition for establishing liability under § 2, as announced in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 50 (1986). (Doc. No. 39.) Specifically, plaintiffs seek a determination that no genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether the Latino population in Kern County is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majorities of voters in each of two supervisorial districts. On April 18, 2017, defendants filed their opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 41.) On April 25 2017, plaintiffs filed their reply. (Doc. No. 57.)

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party “initially bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). The moving party may accomplish this by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or by showing that such materials “do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Where the party moving for summary judgment will bear the burden of proof at trial, as is the case here, that party must come forward with evidence that would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence were uncontroverted at trial. Houghton v. South, 965 F.2d 1532, 1536 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (“Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party.”)

         If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits or admissible discovery material in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11; Orr v. Bank of America, NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764, 773 (9th Cir. 2002) (“A trial court can only consider admissible evidence in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250; Wool v. Tandem Computs., Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

         “In evaluating the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of fact, ” the court draws “all inferences supported by the evidence in favor of the non-moving party.” Walls v. Central Costa Cty. Transit Auth., 653 F.3d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 2011). It is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F.Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Section 2 Overview

         Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states or their political subdivisions from enacting voting standards, practices, and procedures “which result[] in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a). A violation of § 2 is established if, “based on the totality of circumstances, ” the challenged electoral process is “not equally open to participation by members of a [racial minority group] in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” 52 U.S.C. § 10301(b). “The essence of a § 2 claim is that a certain electoral law, practice, or structure interacts with social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by [minority] and [majority] voters to elect their preferred representatives.” Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 47 (1986); see also Allen v. State Bd. of Elections, 393 U.S. 544, 566-67 (1969) (the language “voting qualifications or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure” was employed in § 2 in order to be “all-inclusive of any kind of practice” that might be used to deny citizens the right to vote).

         Following Congressional enactment of § 2, the Supreme Court articulated a two-step inquiry for analyzing vote dilution claims. First, a minority group of voters challenging a particular election system must demonstrate three prerequisites: (1) the minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district, (2) the minority group is politically cohesive, and (3) the majority group votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it, in the absence of special circumstances, “usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate.” Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50-51; accord Cooper v. Harris, 581 U.S. ___, ___, No. 15-1262, 2017 WL 2216930, at *12 (May 22, 2017). Second, after determining that these threshold conditions are met, the court must determine whether, “based on the totality of circumstances, ” the challenged electoral process impermissibly impairs the minority group's ability to elect representatives of its choice. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 44-45; see also Ruiz v. City of Santa Maria, 160 F.3d 543, 550 (9th Cir. 1998) (adopting the Gingles two-step analysis).[2] While Gingles involved multi-member districts which send two or more members to a legislative chamber, the Supreme Court has since applied the same framework to cases involving single-member districts, where the challenged practice is the manipulation of district lines. See Voinovich, 507 U.S. at 157-58 (citing Growe v. Emison, 507 U.S. 25, 40-41 (1993)); see also Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 11 (2009); Old Person v. Brown, 312 F.3d 1036, 1040-42 (9th Cir. 2002).

         B. The First Gingles Precondition

         Plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment only with respect to the first Gingles precondition, which in this case requires a showing that the Latino voting population in Kern County is both sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a numerical majority in a second single-member ...


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