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Paul, Weiss Achieves Landmark Victory in Florida Voting Rights Case
- Client News
- May 24, 2020
As lauded by the New York Times Editorial Board, Paul, Weiss and co-counsel civil and voting rights organizations won a historic voting rights victory on May 24 in Florida when a judge struck down a state law preventing Floridians with prior felony convictions from voting until they paid outstanding fees, and regardless of their ability to pay. Following an eight-day bench trial, conducted by video in late April, Judge Robert Lewis Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida invalidated the challenged law as violating the Equal Protection Clause and the 24th Amendment. Judge Hinkle held that the State was not permitted to require payment of any costs or fees as a condition of voting, and could not condition voting on the payment of fines or restitution by individuals unable to pay them. As a result of the judge’s ruling, hundreds of thousands of Floridians with criminal records who have been barred from the ballot box for decades will be able to participate in upcoming elections.
Co-counsel in the case, Jones v. DeSantis, filed last year in the Northern District of Florida, included NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Campaign Legal Center. Plaintiffs challenged a state law that they alleged created wealth-based hurdles to voting, and undermined a state constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters in 2018 that restored voting rights to people convicted of most felonies after they completed their sentences. Plaintiffs alleged that the new state law rendered it virtually impossible for most returning citizens to register to vote due to their inability to pay, or the state’s inability to inform them of what they owed, in violation of Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection, Due Process and 24th Amendment rights.
The Paul, Weiss team was led by litigation associates Pietro Signoracci and David Giller, who argued on behalf of the disenfranchised Florida citizens; the team was supervised by litigation partners Robert Atkins and Yahonnes Cleary. The team also included pro bono counsel Emily Goldberg and litigation associates Matthew Barnett, Amitav Chakraborty, Aaron Haier, Eliza Strong and Jessica Morton.