Davis v. Guam

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 05-08-2015
  • Case #: 13-15199
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Smith; Dissent by Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Unequal treatment under the law is a judicially cognizable personal injury, even without tangible consequences, which satisfies Article III’s case and controversy requirement.

Native Inhabitants of Guam may register with the Guam Decolonization Registry, and thereby vote in plebiscites. The results reflect the official position and intent of the Native Inhabitants of Guam regarding Guam’s future political relationship with the United States. Guam only conducts a plebiscite if 70 percent of eligible Native Inhabitants register. Arnold Davis, a Guam resident, was ineligible to register because he was not a Native Inhabitant. Davis alleged that the Native Inhabitant classification is an unlawful proxy for race, and violates the Fifth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Voting Rights Act, and the Guam Organic Act. Davis sought a declaration that the classification system was unlawful, and requested an injunction against using any registry other than the general voter registry for plebiscite voting eligibility. The district court found that Davis lacked standing and the claim was unripe because he was not yet injured. The district court held that Davis could only suffer an injury if there was a plebiscite scheduled. To meet the case or controversy provision of Article III, a plaintiff must show that a concrete and particularized injury to a judicially cognizable interest has been suffered, or will imminently be suffered, the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant’s action, and it is likely that the injury would be prevented, or redressed, by a ruling for the plaintiff. The Ninth Circuit determined that Davis’s alleged injury, unequal treatment under the law, was a judicially cognizable personal injury, even though curing the injury would not have any tangible consequences. The panel found Davis’s challenge was also ripe because he alleged he was currently being denied equal treatment by being excluded from the registration process. The panel then left the merits of the case to the district court’s determination. AFFIRMED in Part, REVERSED in Part, and REMANDED.

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