Jenner & Block

The Heart of the Matter Blog

Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:

 

 

October 30, 2020 Team Secures Federal Court Orders Requiring USPS To Expedite Florida Ballots
 
A team led by Jenner & Block Partner David J. Bradford represents 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East in its lawsuit against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over alleged slowdowns in mail delivery.
 
The union sued DeJoy on October 6, claiming he made “illegal and unprecedented changes” to USPS policies that will delay ballots and disenfranchise Floridians who are voting by mail in larger numbers than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
On October 29, the team won a court order requiring USPS to issue “all clear” certifications from all postal facilities in the 10 largest counties in Florida by 8 a.m. on Monday, November 2. The “all clear” certification requires each facility to certify that it has processed all ballots at that facility.  The court scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, at which he could order further emergency relief if the 8 a.m. certifications were not satisfactory to our client. These certifications and other relief were ordered over USPS’ objection.  
 
This ruling came on the heels an October 28 agreement, that required USPS to provide detailed arrangements for USPS officials to transfer ballots directly to Election Officials prior to 7 p.m. on Election Day and for USPS to “implement a hub-and-spoke plan” for each Florida county for November 2 and 3. 
 
Under the agreement, the USPS will route any ballots within or near the destination county directly to the county's supervisor of elections, preventing them from traveling to a sorting facility farther away.
 
“The key is to get the ballots in the hands of that servicing facility,” Mr. Bradford told US District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. in a videoconference hearing. “The hub and spoke is designed to make sure they don't get sent 200 miles away only to be sent back to the county.”
 
The agreements also required USPS to report to our team on a daily basis if there have been any material departures from the agreed procedures.  All of these agreed procedures to expedite ballots and to provide transparency about ballot delivery issues were made part of the Court’s October 29 Order. 
 
In addition to Mr. Bradford, the team included Partners Daniel J. Weiss and Ashley M. Schumacher, Associates Nayiri Pilikyan and Christopher M. Sheehan, and Paralegal Mike Hughes.  Partner Jessica Ring Amunson, chair of the firm’s Election Law and Redistricting Practice, has also worked closely with this team in connection with this litigation. 

CATEGORIES: Litigation, Voting

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, David J. Bradford, Ashley M. Schumacher, Daniel J. Weiss

August 26, 2019 Firm Team Achieves 11th Circuit Victory in Pro Bono Voting Rights Case

On August 22, a Jenner & Block team won a significant victory when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision entering judgment against the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), in its lawsuit against the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, Dr. Brenda Snipes.  The appellate court rejected ACRU’s arguments as contrary to the statutory text of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and discerned “no clear error in the district court’s factual findings.”

In ACRU v. Snipes, ACRU alleged that Snipes failed to make reasonable efforts to conduct voter list maintenance programs, violating Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).  The ACRU also claimed that Snipes failed to respond sufficiently to written requests for data regarding the offices implementation of programs and activities for ensuring the accuracy of official lists of eligible voters for Broward County, further violating Section 8 of NVRA.

After finding that the ACRU’s notice letter to Snipes was the only correspondence sent and did not disclose potential NVRA violation or probationary time to remedy it, the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the allegation, sua sponte.

In July 2017, a five-day bench trial proceeded solely on the ACRU’s contention that Snipes failed to make “reasonable effort” to remove ineligible voters by reasons of death or change in address.  The court found every piece of evidence offered by ACRU unconvincing, concluding that the organization’s accusations were thoroughly unfounded and held that Broward County’s voter list maintenance program was fully compliant with federal law.

On March 30, 2018, Judge Beth Bloom ruled in favor of Dr. Snipes and SEIU.  In doing so, the judge wrote that Dr. Snipes “implemented a general program that makes a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters by reason of death or change of address.”  The judge also held that the ACRU failed to prove a violation of Section 8 of the NVRA.  “The court recognizes that the NVRA has a nationwide application, and for that reason, it declines to apply a subjective approach that would vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction,” she wrote.  Partner Kali Bracey and Associate Tassity Johnson, joined by former partner Carrie Apfel and former associate Marina Jenkins successfully tried the case. 

In March 2019, Partner Jessica Ring Amunson argued the appeal in the 11th Circuit.  The appellate court affirmed the district court in full.  On appeal, the ACRU argued that the NVRA’s mandate to remove voters ineligible due to relocation or death extended to other categories of potential ineligibility, that the HAVA also broadened the NVRA’s list maintenance obligations, and that National Change of Address procedure outlined in the NVRA for removing relocated voters from the rolls did not create “safe harbor” of reasonable list maintenance.  The appellate court found that all three arguments were completely contrary to the language and purpose of the NVRA and HAVA.  Moreover, after “thorough review[ ]” of the record, the court “discern[ed] no clear error in the district court’s factual findings.” 

In addition to Ms. Amunson, the firm team on appeal included Partner Kali Bracey and Associates Tassity Johnson and Manuel C. Possolo.  Paralegal Cheryl Olson and Docketing Assistant Tyler Edwards also assisted at the trial and appellate levels.
 

CATEGORIES: Appellate Supreme Court, Litigation, Voting

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson, Manuel C . Possolo, Tassity Johnson, Kali Bracey

September 26, 2016 Firm Joins Team of Organizations Challenging Alabama’s Disenfranchisement Law

Used for pro bono blogOn September 26, 2016, the firm joined a team of civil rights organizations that filed suit in Alabama district court on behalf of US citizens with past felony convictions who have been denied the right to vote due to the state’s felony disenfranchisement system.  The firm is working pro bono alongside the Campaign Legal Center and the Voting Rights Institute.

Thompson v. Alabama argues that the 14th Amendment does not allow the blanket disenfranchisement of citizens for minor non-violent offenses that are irrelevant to voting.  The lawsuit calls for the court to rule that the law is racially discriminatory, unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act.  It also asserts a theory that, if successful, could limit the scope of permissible felony disenfranchisement nationwide.

Please click here to read more about the lawsuit.  News of the lawsuit was reported by several media outlets, including the New York Times, in an article and opinion piece, and Mother Jones.

CATEGORIES: Voting

PEOPLE: Jessica Ring Amunson

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