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Fabela v. City of Farmers Branch

Fabela v. City of Farmers Branch

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Published by Dianne Solis
Judicial opinion on 8/2/2012
Judicial opinion on 8/2/2012

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Published by: Dianne Solis on Aug 02, 2012
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08/02/2012

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXASDALLAS DIVISIONMARIA FABELA, et al., §§Plaintiffs, §§ Civil Action No. 3:10-CV-1425-DVS. §§CITY OF FARMERS BRANCH, §TEXAS, et al., §§Defendants. §MEMORANDUM OPINIONAND ORDERThis lawsuit presents the question whether the at-large system of electing membersof the City Council of the City of Farmers Branch, Texas (“Farmers Branch”) violates § 2of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973. Following a bench trial, and for thereasons that follow,
1
the court finds that it does.IPlaintiffs are Hispanic residents of Farmers Branch,
2
which is located in DallasCounty, Texas. They bring this action under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act against FarmersBranch and several Farmers Branch public officials, in their official capacities.
3
Farmers
1
The court sets out in this memorandum opinion and order its findings of fact andconclusions of law.
See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)(1).
2
Plaintiffs are Maria Fabela, Alfonso Baladez, Amelia Baladez, Maria Baladez, MariaJacobo, Antonio Reyes, Maria Reyes, Diana Rosas, Leticia Torres, and Jose Villaneda.
3
Defendants are Farmers Branch, Tim O’Hare, Harold Froelich, Michelle Holmes,David Koch, Ben Robinson, and Tim Scott.
Case 3:10-cv-01425-D Document 51 Filed 08/02/12 Page 1 of 41 PageID 294
 
Branch is governed by a City Council consisting of six members—a mayor and five councilmembers—who are elected at-large, but run for specific seats. The Farmers Branch electoralsystem requires run-off elections when no candidate receives a majority of the vote for aparticular seat. City Council members serve staggered three-year terms and are term-limited.According to the last Decennial Census (“the Census”), in 2010 Farmers Branch hada population of 28,616, of whom 21,776 were of voting age (“VAP”). Hispanics comprised45.37% of the city’s population and 38.12% of the voting age population (“VAP”).According to the five-year (2006-2010) American Community Survey (“ACS”), of the 8,300adult
4
Hispanics in Farmers Branch, 3,999 were citizens and 4,301 were non-citizens.
5
Hispanics therefore comprised 23.95% of the citizen voting age population (“CVAP”), whileCaucasians
6
comprised 66.30% of the CVAP.
7
The Census formerly consisted of a “short form,” received by every household in theUnited States, and a “long form,” sent to approximately one in every six households. The“long form” obtained more information about a person, including citizenship status. TheU.S. Census Bureau (“Census Bureau”) no longer uses the “long form” questionnaire and
4
Throughout this memorandum opinion and order, the term “adult” means a personage 18 or older and therefore eligible by age to vote.
5
For purposes of this decision, it is irrelevant whether a non-citizen was present inFarmers Branch legally or illegally.
6
Throughout this memorandum opinion and order, the term “Caucasian” means whitepersons who are neither Hispanic nor Latino.
7
African-Americans comprised 5.11% of the CVAP, and all other races and ethnicitiescomprised the remaining 4.64%.- 2 -
Case 3:10-cv-01425-D Document 51 Filed 08/02/12 Page 2 of 41 PageID 295
 
relies solely on ACS data to perform demographic sampling of the United States population.The ACS is the only source of data regarding citizenship produced by the Census Bureau.Unlike the Census, the ACS is not an actual population count; instead, the ACS estimatespopulation by sampling approximately three million households annually. Although ACSdata are released annually, the Census Bureau recommends using the three-year or five-yearaggregations of ACS data when working with smaller populations due to the relatively smallnumber of households surveyed.Plaintiffs maintain that Farmers Branch’s system of electing City Council membersat-large denies Hispanic voters the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the electoralprocess and to elect representatives of their choice, in violation of § 2 of the Voting RightsAct.
8
“No Hispanic has been elected as a member of city council or mayor of the City underthe at-large election system.” Pretrial Order ¶ 5 (stipulation of fact). There have been atleast four recent elections in which a Hispanic candidate has run for the City Council andlost, despite receiving a majority of the Hispanic vote.
8
Although plaintiffs challenge the Farmers Branch system of electing members of theCity Council, and they often include the office of mayor when describing the compositionof the City Council, plaintiffs do not suggest that the mayor should be elected by fewer thanall eligible voters of Farmers Branch.
See
Tr. 1:14 (stating in plaintiffs’ opening statement:“We’re asking for one district, 1 out of 5.”); and 18 (stating in plaintiffs’ opening statement:“That’s not why we’re here, only that they be given the same opportunity to elect but one of five seats to Farmers Branch City Council.”);
cf.
Pretrial Order ¶ 12 (listing as contestedissue of fact “[w]hether a lawful council district can be drawn in the City that includes aHispanic citizen-voting-age majority[.]”).- 3 -
Case 3:10-cv-01425-D Document 51 Filed 08/02/12 Page 3 of 41 PageID 296

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