throbber

`(Slip Opinion)
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`
`
` OCTOBER TERM, 2016
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`
`Syllabus
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`1
`
` NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
`
`
`
` being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
`
`
`
` The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
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` prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
`
` See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`
`
` Syllabus
`
`
`
` COOPER, GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA, ET AL. v.
`
`
`
` HARRIS ET AL.
`ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
`
`THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
` No. 15–1262. Argued December 5, 2016—Decided May 22, 2017
`
`The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents a
`
`State, in the absence of “sufficient justification,” from “separating its
` citizens into different voting districts on the basis of race.” Bethune-
`
`
` Hill v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections, 580 U. S. ___, ___. When a
`voter sues state officials for drawing such race-based lines, this
`
`Court’s decisions call for a two-step analysis. First, the plaintiff must
`prove that “race was the predominant factor motivating the legisla-
`ture’s decision to place a significant number of voters within or with-
`
` out a particular district.” Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 916. Sec-
`
` ond, if racial considerations did predominate, the State must prove
`
`
` that its race-based sorting of voters serves a “compelling interest”
`and is “narrowly tailored” to that end, Bethune-Hill, 580 U. S., at ___.
`
`This Court has long assumed that one compelling interest is compli-
`
`
` ance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA or Act). When a State
`invokes the VRA to justify race-based districting, it must show (to
`meet the “narrow tailoring” requirement) that it had “good reasons”
`for concluding that the statute required its action. Alabama Legisla-
`tive Black Caucus v. Alabama, 575 U. S. ___, ___. A district court’s
`factual findings made in the course of this two-step inquiry are re-
`
`
`viewed only for clear error. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6); Easley
`v. Cromartie, 532 U. S. 234, 242 (Cromartie II).
`
`
`This case concerns North Carolina’s redrawing of two congressional
`
`
`districts, District 1 and District 12, after the 2010 census. Prior to
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`
`that redistricting, neither district had a majority black voting-age
`population (BVAP), but both consistently elected the candidates pre-
`
`ferred by most African-American voters. The new map significantly
`
`
`altered both District 1 and District 12. The State needed to add al-
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`
`
`

`

`2
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`
`
`COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`
`Syllabus
`most 100,000 people to District 1 to comply with the one-person-one-
`vote principle, and it chose to take most of those people from heavily
`
`
`black areas of Durham—increasing the district’s BVAP from 48.6% to
`
`52.7%. The State also reconfigured District 12, increasing its BVAP
`
`from 43.8% to 50.7%. Registered voters in those districts (here called
`“the plaintiffs”) filed suit against North Carolina officials (collective-
`ly, “the State” or “North Carolina”), complaining of impermissible ra-
`cial gerrymanders. A three-judge District Court held both districts
`
`unconstitutional. It found that racial considerations predominated in
`the drawing of District 1’s lines and rejected the State’s claim that
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`this action was justified by the VRA. As for District 12, the court
`
`again found that race predominated, and it explained that the State
`
`made no attempt to justify its attention to race in designing that dis-
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`trict.
`Held:
`
`
`1. North Carolina’s victory in a similar state-court lawsuit does not
`
`dictate the disposition of this case or alter the applicable standard of
`review. Before this case was filed, a state trial court rejected a claim
`
`by several civil rights groups that Districts 1 and 12 were unlawful
`racial gerrymanders. The North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed
`
`that decision under the state-court equivalent of clear error review.
`The State claims that the plaintiffs are members of the same organi-
`
`zations that brought the earlier case, and thus precluded from raising
`
`the same questions anew. But the State never satisfied the District
`Court that the alleged affiliation really existed. And because the Dis-
`trict Court’s factual finding was reasonable, it defeats North Caroli-
`
`na’s attempt to argue for claim or issue preclusion here.
`
`The State’s backup argument about the proper standard of review
`also falls short. The rule that a trial court’s factual findings are re-
`
`viewed only for clear error contains no exception for findings that di-
`verge from those made in another court. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc.
`52(a)(6). Although the state court’s decision is certainly relevant, the
`
`premise of clear error review is that there are often “two permissible
`
`
`views of the evidence.” Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U. S. 564,
`
`574. Even assuming that the state court’s findings capture one such
`view, the only question here is whether the District Court’s assess-
`
`ment represents another. Pp. 7–10.
`
`
`2. The District Court did not err in concluding that race furnished
`the predominant rationale for District 1’s redesign and that the
`State’s interest in complying with the VRA could not justify that con-
`sideration of race. Pp. 10–18.
`
`
`
`(a) The record shows that the State purposefully established a
`racial target for the district and that the target “had a direct and sig-
`
`nificant impact” on the district’s configuration, Alabama, 575 U. S.,
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`

`

`3
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`
`Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`
`Syllabus
`at ___, subordinating other districting criteria. Faced with this body
`of evidence, the District Court did not clearly err in finding that race
`predominated in drawing District 1; indeed, it could hardly have con-
`
`cluded anything but. Pp. 10–12.
`
`
`(b) North Carolina’s use of race as the predominant factor in de-
`signing District 1 does not withstand strict scrutiny. The State ar-
`gues that it had good reasons to believe that it had to draw a majori-
`
`ty-minority district to avoid liability for vote dilution under §2 of the
`
`
`VRA. Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S. 30, identifies three threshold
`conditions for proving such a vote-dilution claim: (1) A “minority
`
`group” must be “sufficiently large and geographically compact to con-
`
`stitute a majority” in some reasonably configured legislative district,
`
`id., at 50; (2) the minority group must be “politically cohesive,” id., at
`
`
`51; and (3) a district’s white majority must “vote[ ] sufficiently as a
`bloc” to usually “defeat the minority’s preferred candidate,” ibid. If a
`
`State has good reason to think that all three of these conditions are
`met, then so too it has good reason to believe that §2 requires draw-
`ing a majority-minority district. But if not, then not.
`
`
`Here, electoral history provided no evidence that a §2 plaintiff
`
`could demonstrate the third Gingles prerequisite. For nearly 20
`
`
`years before the new plan’s adoption, African-Americans made up
`less than a majority of District 1’s voters, but their preferred candi-
`
`dates scored consistent victories. District 1 thus functioned as a
`
`“crossover” district, in which members of the majority help a “large
`enough” minority to elect its candidate of choice. Bartlett v. Strick-
`
`land, 556 U. S. 1, 13 (plurality opinion). So experience gave the State
`no reason to think that the VRA required it to ramp up District 1’s
`
`BVAP.
`
`
`The State counters that because it needed to substantially increase
`District 1’s population, the question facing the state mapmakers was
`not whether the then-existing District 1 violated §2, but whether the
`future District 1 would do so if drawn without regard to race. But
`that reasoning, taken alone, cannot justify the State’s race-based re-
`design of the district. Most important, the State points to no mean-
`ingful legislative inquiry into the key issue it identifies: whether a
`
`
`new, enlarged District 1, created without a focus on race, could lead
`to §2 liability. To have a strong basis to conclude that §2 demands
`
`race-based measures to augment a district’s BVAP, the State must
`evaluate whether a plaintiff could establish the Gingles preconditions
`in a new district created without those measures. Nothing in the leg-
`
`
`islative record here fits that description. And that is no accident:
`The redistricters believed that this Court’s decision in Strickland
`mandated a 50%-plus BVAP in District 1. They apparently reasoned
`
`that if, as Strickland held, §2 does not require crossover districts (for
`
`
`
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`

`

`4
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`COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`
`Syllabus
`groups insufficiently large under Gingles), then §2 also cannot be sat-
`isfied by crossover districts (for groups meeting Gingles’ size condi-
`
`
`tion). But, as this Court’s §2 jurisprudence makes clear, unless each
`
`
`of the three Gingles prerequisites is established, “there neither has
`
`
`
`been a wrong nor can be a remedy.” Growe v. Emison, 507 U. S. 25,
`
`41. North Carolina’s belief that it was compelled to redraw District 1
`
`
`(a successful crossover district) as a majority-minority district thus
`rested on a pure error of law. Accordingly, the Court upholds the
`District Court’s conclusion that the State’s use of race as the predom-
`
`inant factor in designing District 1 does not withstand strict scrutiny.
`Pp. 12–18.
`
`3. The District Court also did not clearly err by finding that race
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`predominated in the redrawing of District 12. Pp. 18–34.
`
`
`(a) The district’s legality turns solely on which of two possible
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`
`
`reasons predominantly explains its reconfiguration. The plaintiffs
`contended at trial that North Carolina intentionally increased Dis-
`trict 12’s BVAP in the name of ensuring preclearance under §5 of the
`
`VRA. According to the State, by contrast, the mapmakers moved
`voters in and out of the district as part of a “strictly” political gerry-
`
`mander, without regard to race. After hearing evidence supporting
`both parties’ accounts, the District Court accepted the plaintiffs’.
`
`Getting to the bottom of a dispute like this one poses special chal-
`
`lenges for a trial court, which must make “ ‘a sensitive inquiry’ ” into
`
`
`
`all “ ‘circumstantial and direct evidence of intent’ ” to assess whether
`
`
`
`the plaintiffs have proved that race, not politics, drove a district’s
`lines. Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U. S. 541, 546 (Cromartie I). This
`Court’s job is different—and generally easier. It affirms a trial
`
`
`
`court’s factual finding as to racial predominance so long as the find-
`ing is “plausible”; it reverses only when “left with the definite and
`
`
`firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Anderson, 470
`U. S., at 573–574. In assessing a finding’s plausibility, moreover, the
`Court gives singular deference to a trial court’s judgments about the
`
`credibility of witnesses. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 52(a)(6). Applying
`
`those principles here, the evidence at trial—including live witness
`
`testimony subject to credibility determinations—adequately supports
`
`
`the District Court’s conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for
`District 12’s reconfiguration. And contrary to the State’s view, the
`court had no call to dismiss this challenge just because the plaintiffs
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`
`did not proffer an alternative design for District 12. Pp. 18–21.
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`
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`(b) By slimming the district and adding a couple of knobs to its
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`snakelike body, North Carolina added 35,000 African-Americans and
`subtracted 50,000 whites, turning District 12 into a majority-
`minority district. State Senator Robert Rucho and State Representa-
`
`tive David Lewis—the chairs of the two committees responsible for
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`

`

`5
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`Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`
`Syllabus
`preparing the revamped plan—publicly stated that racial considera-
`tions lay behind District 12’s augmented BVAP. Specifically, Rucho
`
`
`and Lewis explained that because part of Guilford County, a jurisdic-
`
`
`tion covered by §5 of the VRA, lay in the district, they had increased
`
`the district’s BVAP to ensure preclearance of the plan. Dr. Thomas
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`Hofeller, their hired mapmaker, confirmed that intent. The State’s
`preclearance submission to the Justice Department indicated a simi-
`
`
`lar determination to concentrate black voters in District 12. And, in
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`testimony that the District Court found credible, Congressman Mel
`
`Watt testified that Rucho disclosed a majority-minority target to him
`
`
`in 2011. Hofeller testified that he had drawn District 12’s lines based
`
`
`on political data, and that he checked the racial data only after he
`drew a politics-based line between adjacent areas in Guilford County.
`
`But the District Court disbelieved Hofeller’s asserted indifference to
`the new district’s racial composition, pointing to his contrary deposi-
`
`tion testimony and a significant contradiction in his trial testimony.
`
`Finally, an expert report lent circumstantial support to the plaintiffs’
`
`case, showing that, regardless of party, a black voter in the region
`
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`was three to four times more likely than a white voter to cast a ballot
`
`within District 12’s borders.
`
`The District Court’s assessment that all this evidence proved racial
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`predominance clears the bar of clear error review. Maybe this Court
`would have evaluated the testimony differently had it presided over
`the trial; or then again, maybe it would not have. Either way, the
`Court is far from having a “definite and firm conviction” that the Dis-
`
`trict Court made a mistake in concluding from the record before it
`that racial considerations predominated in District 12’s design.
`Pp. 21–28.
`(c) Finally, North Carolina argues that when race and politics
`
`are competing explanations of a district’s lines, plaintiffs must intro-
`
`duce an alternative map that achieves a State’s asserted political
`goals while improving racial balance. Such a map can serve as key
`evidence in a race-versus-politics dispute, but it is hardly the only
`
`means to disprove a State’s contention that politics drove a district’s
`lines. In this case, the plaintiffs’ introduction of mostly direct and
`some circumstantial evidence gave the District Court a sufficient ba-
`sis, sans any map, to resolve the race-or-politics question. Although a
`
`plaintiff will sometimes need an alternative map, as a practical mat-
`
`ter, to make his case, such a map is merely an evidentiary tool to
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`show that an equal protection violation has occurred; neither its
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`presence nor its absence can itself resolve a racial gerrymandering
`
`claim.
`
`North Carolina claims that a passage of this Court’s opinion in
`
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`Cromartie II makes an alternative map essential in cases like this
`
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`

`6
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`
` COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`
`Syllabus
`
` one, but the reasoning of Cromartie II belies that reading. The
` Court’s opinion nowhere attempts to explicate or justify the categori-
`
`
` cal rule that the State claims to find there, and the entire thrust of
`
`the opinion runs counter to an inflexible counter-map requirement.
`Rightly understood, the passage on which the State relies had a dif-
`ferent and narrower point: Given the weak evidence of a racial ger-
`
`rymander offered in Cromartie II, only maps that would actually
`
` show what the plaintiffs’ had not could carry the day. This case, in
`contrast, turned not on the possibility of creating more optimally con-
` structed districts, but on direct evidence of the General Assembly’s
`
`intent in creating the actual District 12—including many hours of
`
` trial testimony subject to credibility determinations. That evidence,
`the District Court plausibly found, itself satisfied the plaintiffs’ bur-
`den of debunking North Carolina’s politics defense. Pp. 28–34.
`
`159 F. Supp. 3d 600, affirmed.
`KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which THOMAS,
`
`
`
`GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a
`
`
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`concurring opinion. ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judg-
`
`
`ment in part and dissenting in part, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KEN-
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`
`
`NEDY, J., joined. GORSUCH, J., took no part in the consideration or deci-
`
`
`
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`sion of the case.
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`

`

`
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`
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` Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`
`1
`
`
` NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
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`
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` preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
`
` notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
`
` ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order
`
`
` that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
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`
`
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`
`_________________
`
` No. 15–1262
`_________________
`ROY COOPER, GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA,
`
` ET AL., APPELLANTS v.
`
`
`
`DAVID HARRIS, ET AL.
`
`
`ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
`
`THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
`[May 22, 2017]
`JUSTICE KAGAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
`The Constitution entrusts States with the job of design-
`
`ing congressional districts. But it also imposes an im-
`portant constraint: A State may not use race as the pre-
`dominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a
`compelling reason.
`In this case, a three-judge District
`Court ruled that North Carolina officials violated that bar
`when they created two districts whose voting-age popula-
`
`tions were majority black. Applying a deferential stand-
`ard of review to the factual findings underlying that
`decision, we affirm.
`
`
`
`I
`
`A
`
`
`The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amend-
`
`ment limits racial gerrymanders in legislative districting
`plans. It prevents a State, in the absence of “sufficient
`
`justification,” from “separating its citizens into different
`voting districts on the basis of race.” Bethune-Hill v.
`Virginia State Bd. of Elections, 580 U. S. ___, ___ (2017)
`
`
`(slip op., at 6) (internal quotation marks and alteration
`
`
`
`

`

`2
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`
`
`COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`Opinion of the Court
`omitted). When a voter sues state officials for drawing
`
`such race-based lines, our decisions call for a two-step
`
`analysis.
`
`First, the plaintiff must prove that “race was the pre-
`
`dominant factor motivating the legislature’s decision to
`
`place a significant number of voters within or without a
`
`particular district.” Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 916
`
`(1995). That entails demonstrating that the legislature
`
`“subordinated” other factors—compactness, respect for
`
`political subdivisions, partisan advantage, what have
`you—to “racial considerations.” Ibid. The plaintiff may
`
`make the required showing through “direct evidence” of
`
`legislative intent, “circumstantial evidence of a district’s
`
`shape and demographics,” or a mix of both. Ibid.1
`Second, if racial considerations predominated over
`
`others, the design of the district must withstand strict
`
`scrutiny. See Bethune-Hill, 580 U. S., at ____ (slip op., at
`13). The burden thus shifts to the State to prove that its
`race-based sorting of voters serves a “compelling interest”
`and is “narrowly tailored” to that end. Ibid. This Court
`has long assumed that one compelling interest is comply-
`ing with operative provisions of the Voting Rights Act of
`1965 (VRA or Act), 79 Stat. 437, as amended, 52 U. S. C.
`
`
`§10301 et seq. See, e.g., Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U. S. 899, 915
`(1996) (Shaw II).
`
`Two provisions of the VRA—§2 and §5—are involved in
`this case. §§10301, 10304. Section 2 prohibits any
`
`“standard, practice, or procedure” that “results in a denial
`——————
`1A plaintiff succeeds at this stage even if the evidence reveals that a
`
` legislature elevated race to the predominant criterion in order to
`advance other goals, including political ones. See Bush v. Vera, 517
`U. S. 952, 968–970 (1996) (plurality opinion) (holding that race predom-
`inated when a legislature deliberately “spread[] the Black population”
`among several districts in an effort to “protect[] Democratic incum-
`bents”); Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 914 (1995) (stating that the
`
`“use of race as a proxy” for “political interest[s]” is “prohibit[ed]”).
`
`
`
`
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`

`

`3
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`Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`or abridgement of the right . . . to vote on account of race.”
`
`
` §10301(a). We have construed that ban to extend to “vote
`
`dilution”—brought about, most relevantly here, by the
`
`“dispersal of [a group’s members] into districts in which
`they constitute an ineffective minority of voters.” Thorn­
`burg v. Gingles, 478 U. S. 30, 46, n. 11 (1986). Section 5,
`
`at the time of the districting in dispute, worked through a
`
`different mechanism. Before this Court invalidated its
`coverage formula, see Shelby County v. Holder, 570 U. S.
`
`__ (2013), that section required certain jurisdictions (in-
`cluding various North Carolina counties) to pre-clear
`
`voting changes with the Department of Justice, so as to
`
`forestall “retrogression” in the ability of racial minorities
`to elect their preferred candidates, Beer v. United States,
`425 U. S. 130, 141 (1976).
`When a State invokes the VRA to justify race-based
`
`districting, it must show (to meet the “narrow tailoring”
`
`requirement) that it had “a strong basis in evidence” for
`
`concluding that the statute required its action. Alabama
`Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, 575 U. S. ___, ___
`(2015) (slip op., at 22). Or said otherwise, the State must
`establish that it had “good reasons” to think that it would
`
`transgress the Act if it did not draw race-based district
`lines. Ibid. That “strong basis” (or “good reasons”) stand-
`ard gives States “breathing room” to adopt reasonable
`
`compliance measures that may prove, in perfect hindsight,
`not to have been needed. Bethune-Hill, 580 U. S., at ___
`(slip op., at 16).
`
`A district court’s assessment of a districting plan, in
`accordance with the two-step inquiry just described, war-
`rants significant deference on appeal to this Court.2 We of
`course retain full power to correct a court’s errors of law,
`
`——————
`2Challenges to the constitutionality of congressional districts are
`
`
`
` heard by three-judge district courts, with a right of direct appeal to this
`Court. See 28 U. S. C. §§2284(a), 1253.
`
`
`
`
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`

`

`4
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`
`
` COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`Opinion of the Court
`at either stage of the analysis. But the court’s findings of
`fact—most notably, as to whether racial considerations
`
`predominated in drawing district lines—are subject to
`
`review only for clear error. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc.
`52(a)(6); Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U. S. 234, 242 (2001)
` (Cromartie II); id., at 259 (THOMAS, J., dissenting). Under
`
`
`
`that standard, we may not reverse just because we “would
`
`have decided the [matter] differently.” Anderson v. Bes­
`semer City, 470 U. S. 564, 573 (1985). A finding that is
`“plausible” in light of the full record—even if another is
`
`
`
` equally or more so—must govern. Id., at 574.
`B
`This case concerns North Carolina’s most recent redraw-
`
`ing of two congressional districts, both of which have long
`
`included substantial populations of black voters. In its
`current incarnation, District 1 is anchored in the north-
`eastern part of the State, with appendages stretching both
`
`
` south and west (the latter into Durham). District 12
`
`begins in the south-central part of the State (where it
`takes in a large part of Charlotte) and then travels north-
`east, zig-zagging much of the way to the State’s northern
`border.
`(Maps showing the districts are included in an
`appendix to this opinion.) Both have quite the history
`
`before this Court.
`
`
`We first encountered the two districts, in their 1992
`
`
`versions, in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U. S. 630 (1993). There, we
`held that voters stated an equal protection claim by alleg-
`ing that Districts 1 and 12 were unwarranted racial ger-
`rymanders. See id., at 642, 649. After a remand to the
`District Court, the case arrived back at our door. See
`Shaw II, 517 U. S. 899. That time, we dismissed the
`
`challenge to District 1 for lack of standing, but struck
`
`down District 12. The design of that “serpentine” district,
`
`we held, was nothing if not race-centric, and could not be
`
`justified as a reasonable attempt to comply with the VRA.
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`

`5
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` Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Id., at 906; see id., at 911–918.
`
`The next year, the State responded with a new district-
`ing plan, including a new District 12—and residents of
`that district brought another lawsuit alleging an imper-
`missible racial gerrymander. A District Court sustained
`the claim twice, but both times this Court reversed. See
`
`Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U. S. 541 (1999) (Cromartie I );
`
`Cromartie II, 532 U. S. 234. Racial considerations, we
`
`held, did not predominate in designing the revised District
`12. Rather, that district was the result of a political ger-
`rymander—an effort to engineer, mostly “without regard
`to race,” a safe Democratic seat. Id., at 245.
`
`
`The State redrew its congressional districts again in
`2001, to account for population changes revealed in the
`prior year’s census. Under the 2001 map, which went
`
`unchallenged in court, neither District 1 nor District 12
`
`had a black voting-age population (called a “BVAP”) that
`was a majority of the whole: The former had a BVAP of
`
`around 48%, the latter a BVAP of around 43%. See App.
`
`312, 503. Nonetheless, in five successive general elections
`conducted in those reconfigured districts, all the candi-
`
`dates preferred by most African-American voters won
`
`their contests—and by some handy margins. In District 1,
`black voters’ candidates of choice garnered as much as
`70% of the total vote, and never less than 59%. See 5
`
`Record 636, 638, 641, 645, 647 (Pls. Exh. 112). And in
`
`District 12, those candidates won with 72% of the vote at
`
`the high end and 64% at the low. See id., at 637, 640, 643,
`646, 650.
`
`Another census, in 2010, necessitated yet another con-
`gressional map—(finally) the one at issue in this case.
`
`State Senator Robert Rucho and State Representative
`David Lewis, both Republicans, chaired the two commit-
`tees jointly responsible for preparing the revamped plan.
`They hired Dr. Thomas Hofeller, a veteran political map-
`maker, to assist them in redrawing district lines. Several
`
`
`
`
`
`

`

`
`
`
`
` COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`Opinion of the Court
`hearings, drafts, and revisions later, both chambers of the
`State’s General Assembly adopted the scheme the three
`men proposed.
`The new map (among other things) significantly altered
`
`both District 1 and District 12. The 2010 census had
`revealed District 1 to be substantially underpopulated: To
`comply with the Constitution’s one-person-one-vote prin-
`ciple, the State needed to place almost 100,000 new people
`within the district’s boundaries. See App. 2690; Evenwel
`
`v. Abbott, 578 U. S. ___, ___ (2016) (slip op., at 3) (explain-
`ing that “[s]tates must draw congressional districts with
`
`populations as close to perfect equality as possible”).
`Rucho, Lewis, and Hofeller chose to take most of those
`
`people from heavily black areas of Durham, requiring a
`
`finger-like extension of the district’s western line. See
`Appendix, infra. With that addition, District 1’s BVAP
`rose from 48.6% to 52.7%. See App. 312–313. District 12,
`for its part, had no need for significant total-population
`
`changes: It was overpopulated by fewer than 3,000 people
`out of over 730,000. See id., at 1150. Still, Rucho, Lewis,
`and Hofeller decided to reconfigure the district, further
`
`narrowing its already snakelike body while adding areas
`at either end—most relevantly here, in Guilford County.
`
`See Appendix, infra; App. 1164. Those changes apprecia-
`bly shifted the racial composition of District 12: As the
`district gained some 35,000 African-Americans of voting
`age and lost some 50,000 whites of that age, its BVAP
`increased from 43.8% to 50.7%. See 2 Record 349 (Fourth
`
`Affidavit of Dan Frey, Exh. 5); id., at 416 (Exh. 11).
`Registered voters in the two districts (David Harris and
`
`
`Christine Bowser, here called “the plaintiffs”) brought this
`
`suit against North Carolina officials (collectively, “the
`State” or “North Carolina”), complaining of impermissible
`
`racial gerrymanders. After a bench trial, a three-judge
`District Court held both districts unconstitutional. All the
`judges agreed that racial considerations predominated in
`
`
`6
`
`
`
`
`

`

`7
`
`
`
`
`
`
`
` Cite as: 581 U. S. ____ (2017)
`
`Opinion of the Court
`the design of District 1. See Harris v. McCrory, 159
`F. Supp. 3d 600, 611 (MDNC 2016). And in then applying
`strict scrutiny, all rejected the State’s argument that it
`had a “strong basis” for thinking that the VRA compelled
`
`such a race-based drawing of District 1’s lines. Id., at 623.
`
`As for District 12, a majority of the panel held that “race
`
`predominated” over all other factors, including partisan-
`ship. Id., at 622. And the court explained that the State
`had failed to put forward any reason, compelling or other-
`wise, for its attention to race in designing that district.
`
`See ibid. Judge Osteen dissented from the conclusion that
`race, rather than politics, drove District 12’s lines—yet
`still characterized the majority’s view as “[e]minently
`reasonable.” Id., at 640.
`The State filed a notice of appeal, and we noted probable
`
`jurisdiction. McCrory v. Harris, 579 U. S. ___ (2016).
`
`II
`
`We address at the outset North Carolina’s contention
`
`
`that a victory it won in a very similar state-court lawsuit
`
`should dictate (or at least influence) our disposition of this
`case. As the State explains, the North Carolina NAACP
`and several other civil rights groups challenged Districts 1
`and 12 in state court immediately after their enactment,
`charging that they were unlawful racial gerrymanders.
`See Brief for Appellants 19–20. By the time the plaintiffs
`
`before us filed this action, the state trial court, in Dickson
`
`v. Rucho, had rejected those claims—finding that in Dis-
`trict 1 the VRA justified the General Assembly’s use of
`race and that in District 12 race was not a factor at all.
`
`See App. 1969. The North Carolina Supreme Court then
`
`affirmed that decision by a 4–3 vote, applying the state-
`court equivalent of clear error review. See Dickson v.
`Rucho, 368 N. C. 481, 500, 781 S. E. 2d 404, 419 (2015),
`
`modified on denial of reh’g, 368 N. C. 673, 789 S. E. 2d 436
`
`(2016), cert. pending, No. 16–24. In this Court, North
`
`
`
`
`
`
`

`

`
`
`
`
`
` COOPER v. HARRIS
`
`Opinion of the Court
`Carolina makes two related arguments based on the Dick­
`son litigation: first, that the state trial court’s judgment
`should have barred this case altogether, under familiar
`principles of claim and issue preclusion; and second, that
`the state court’s conclusions should cause us to conduct a
`
`“searching review” of the decision below, rather than
`deferring (as usual) to its factual findings. Reply Brief 6.
`
`The State’s preclusion theory rests on an assertion
`
`about how the plaintiffs in the two cases are affiliated. As
`the State acknowledges, one person’s lawsuit generally
`
`does not bar another’s, no matter how similar they are in
`
`substance. See Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U. S. 880, 892–893
`(2008) (noting the “deep-rooted historic tradition that
`
`everyone should have his own day in court”). But when
`plaintiffs in two cases have a special relationship, a judg-
`ment against one can indeed bind both. See id., at 893–
`
`895 (describing six categories of qualifying relationships).
`The State contends that Harris and Bowser, the plaintiffs
`
`here, are members of organizations that were plaintiffs in
`Dickson. And according to North Carolina, that connec-
`tion prevents the pair from raising anew the questions
`that the state court previously resolved against those
`groups. See Brief for Appellants 20–21.
`
`
`But North Carolina never satisfied the District Court
`that the alleged affiliation really existed. When the State
`
`argued that its preclusion theory entitled it to summary
`
`judgment, Harris and Bowser responded that they were
`not members of any of the organizations that had brought
`the Dickson suit. See 3 Record 1577–1582 (Defs. Motion
`
`for Summary Judgment); 4 Record 101–106 (Pls. Opposi-
`tion to Motion for Summary Judgment). The parties’
`dueling contentions turned on intricate issues about those
`
`groups’ membership po

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