Support the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse?

The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is committed to making information about civil rights lawsuits public, accessible, and free. If you use our--recently revamped--website and the posted documents and information, would you consider a donation? Our small but mighty team relies principally on grant funding and donations. Can you help?

Support the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse?

The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is committed to making information about civil rights lawsuits public, accessible, and free. If you use our--recently revamped--website and the posted documents and information, would you consider a donation? Our small but mighty team relies principally on grant funding and donations. Can you help?

Thank you!

DONATE

Case: Katzenbach v. Morgan

1:65-01915 | U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Filed Date: Aug. 6, 1965

Closed Date: June 13, 1966

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case involves a challenge to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. New York election law required Puerto Rican voters to prove their English proficiency by showing they had completed education at least through the sixth grade entirely or predominantly in English. However, Section 4(e) prohibited denying the right to vote to anyone educated through sixth grade in Puerto Rico in a language other than English. Two New York voters sued the New York City Board of Elections, whose membe…

This case involves a challenge to Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. New York election law required Puerto Rican voters to prove their English proficiency by showing they had completed education at least through the sixth grade entirely or predominantly in English. However, Section 4(e) prohibited denying the right to vote to anyone educated through sixth grade in Puerto Rico in a language other than English. Two New York voters sued the New York City Board of Elections, whose members had announced they intended to comply with Section 4(e), in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to block enforcement of Section 4(e). The plaintiffs alleged the law violated the right of the State of New York to regulate its own elections and diluted the weight of their own votes by allowing people not legally entitled to vote under New York state law to participate in New York elections. In order to defend Section 4(e), the United States intervened as a defendant; as a result, U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach became the named defendant in the case.

On November 15, 1965, a three-judge panel of the District Court ruled that Section 4(e) unconstitutionally usurped states’ ability to regulate their own elections, a power the court held had been reserved to the states by the 10th Amendment. 247 F.Supp 196. They issued an injunction to prevent enforcement of Section 4(e).

The defendants appealed directly to the Supreme Court. On June 13, 1966, the Supreme Court upheld Section 4(e), overturning the District Court. 384 U.S. 641. The Court held that Section 4(e) was an appropriate exercise of the congressional power granted under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment to implement and enforce the Equal Protection Clause. As a result, the federal government could enforce the law. In its decision, the Court specifically noted its ruling did not mean the New York law necessarily violated the Equal Protection Clause on its own but was preempted by Section 4(e).

Summary Authors

Ben Marvin-Vanderryn (11/14/2021)

People


Judge(s)

Harlan, John Marshall (District of Columbia)

Holtzoff, Alexander (District of Columbia)

Stewart, Carl E. (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Avins, Alfred (Tennessee)

Barrett, St. John (District of Columbia)

Claiborne, Louis F. (District of Columbia)

Doar, John (District of Columbia)

Kauder, Louis (District of Columbia)

Marshall, Thurgood (District of Columbia)

Pergam, Albert S. (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Harlan, John Marshall (District of Columbia)

Holtzoff, Alexander (District of Columbia)

Stewart, Carl E. (Louisiana)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Avins, Alfred (Tennessee)

Barrett, St. John (District of Columbia)

Claiborne, Louis F. (District of Columbia)

Doar, John (District of Columbia)

Kauder, Louis (District of Columbia)

Marshall, Thurgood (District of Columbia)

Pergam, Albert S. (District of Columbia)

Spritzer, Ralph S. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:65-01915

Opinion

Morgan v. Katzenbach

Jan. 24, 1966

Jan. 24, 1966

Order/Opinion

0:66-00847

Brief for the Appellants

Supreme Court of the United States

March 1, 1966

March 1, 1966

Pleading / Motion / Brief

0:66-00847

0:66-00877

Brief for Appellees

Supreme Court of the United States

March 21, 1966

March 21, 1966

Pleading / Motion / Brief

0:66-00847

0:66-00877

Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

June 13, 1966

June 13, 1966

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated Nov. 28, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: District of Columbia

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Special Collection(s):

Civil Rights Division Archival Collection

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 6, 1965

Closing Date: June 13, 1966

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Two New York City voters

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

New York City Board of Elections (New York City), City

United States, Federal

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Federalism (including 10th Amendment)

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

U.S. Supreme Court merits opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Issues

General:

Voting

Voting access

Discrimination-basis:

Language discrimination

Language:

Spanish

Voting:

Election administration

Vote dilution

Voter qualifications