Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ball v. James case brief

Ball v. James case brief summary
451 U.S. 355 (1981)

Appellants, registered voters who own no land or less than an acre (voters), filed an action against appellees, large water reclamation district (district) and various officials, to allow the voters to elect the directors of the district. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found for the voters. The district appealed.

The district had the limited purpose to store, conserve, and deliver water for use by the district's landowners. It did not own any water, and it did not engage in traditional elements of governmental sovereignty. The water projects were public entities to enable the raising of revenue through interest-free bonds. The district's development and sale of electric power was not primarily to provide electricity to the public. Instead, it was to support the primary irrigation functions, to supply power for reclamation uses, and to provide revenues to be applied to increase the amount of reclamation and to reduce the cost of water to certain lands. The district could not impose ad valorem or sales taxes or enacted laws to affect a person's use of water.


  • The court reversed the decision for the voters and held that the voters were not entitled to vote for the district's directors. 
  • Due to the district's limited functions, which affected definable constituents more than others, the one-person, one-vote principle of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply. 
  • The fact that the district affected so many people or sold electricity was not important.

The court reversed the decision for the voters and ruled for the district in the determination that the voters were not entitled to vote for the directors of the district.

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