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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Johnson v. Bush CJ-FL-0005
Docket / Court 1:00-cv-03542-JLK ( S.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Case Summary
Eight plaintiffs filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. All the plaintiffs had felony convictions, had completed their sentences, and had not had restoration of their civil rights to register and vote. In the complaint, they challenged the Florida ... read more >
Eight plaintiffs filed a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. All the plaintiffs had felony convictions, had completed their sentences, and had not had restoration of their civil rights to register and vote. In the complaint, they challenged the Florida constitution's felony disenfranchisement provision under the federal Voting Rights Act ("VRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1973, and the First, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Twenty-fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They contended that the state's disenfranchisement law violated prohibitions on racial discrimination and, through a restoration of civil rights process that requires payment of restitution debts prior to restoration of voting rights, effectively imposed an improper poll tax and wealth qualification on voting. State and county officials having responsibility for conducting elections in Florida and the state officials comprising the clemency board were named as defendants in the case. All defendants were sued in their official capacities. The plaintiffs sought class action status for their case and requested declaratory and injunctive relief from the court. Plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and attorneys from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law.

The parties conducted discovery and plaintiffs offered their experts' opinions that the Florida disenfranchisement enactments had a racially discriminatory intent and effect. In January 2002, the state moved for summary judgment and, two weeks later, the defendants cross-moved for summary judgment.

On July 18, 2002, the district court granted the state's motion for summary judgment on both the statutory and constitutional issues. Johnson v. Bush, 214 F. Supp.2d 1333 (S.D. Fl. 2002) (District Judge James Lawrence King). Judge King found that Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedent required denial of the plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment claims as to alleged due process and equal protection clause violations, particularly in view of section 2 of that Amendment, which affirmatively sanctioned felon disenfranchisement. Likewise, the judge rejected the plaintiffs' other constitution-based challenges. He found that plaintiffs' evidence of a racially-discriminatory purpose in the 1868 enactment of the disenfranchisement provision was undercut by the 1968 re-enactment of that provision for racially-neutral reasons. Judge King found that the VRA claim could also be dismissed, as the plaintiffs had been unable to show that their being denied the right to vote turned on their race, as opposed to a racially neutral cause, i.e., the plaintiffs disenfranchised themselves by committing a felony. The judge rejected plaintiffs' claim that voting was improperly conditioned on wealth, saying that they had already lost the right to vote by means of their felonious conduct and that it was the possible restoration of that right, not the voting itself, which was conditioned upon restitution payment (and which payment, under an available administrative mechanism, could be waived by the state).

The plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Eleventh Circuit. A divided panel of that court upheld the poll tax portion of the earlier decision but otherwise reversed the district court on December 19, 2003. The court said that the plaintiffs' evidence established that disputed issues of fact existed to be resolved, making summary judgment inappropriate. The majority of the panel felt that evidence of the circumstances of the 1968 re-enactment of the disenfranchisement provision of the Florida constitution was not sufficiently clear to break the causal chain of racial discrimination that they saw as motivating the provision's original enactment in 1868. Similarly, the panel ruled that the VRA statutory claim should not have been summarily decided, given the totality of the circumstances and the plaintiffs' evidence. Johnson v. Bush, 353 F.3d 1287 (11th Cir. 2003) (Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett).

On July 20, 2004, the Eleventh Circuit vacated the panel's decision and ordered rehearing en banc. Johnson v. Bush, 353 F.3d 1163 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc). Rehearing resulted in the full Eleventh Circuit's opinion affirming summary judgment for the state. Johnson v. Bush, 405 F.3d 1214 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc). Circuit Judge Phyllis A. Kravitch, who had been the dissenter to the panel opinion, wrote the majority en banc opinion. It stated that the 1968 amended version of the felon disenfranchisement provision removed any equal protection taint from the original version of the enactment. The court noted that Florida's felon disenfranchisement law pre-dated the civil war and was enacted when blacks could not vote, regardless of criminal record. To the majority, this observation, together with what the court saw as a dearth of contemporary commentary suggesting racial motivations for the 1868 retention of the disenfranchisement provision, undercut the persuasiveness of the plaintiffs' experts. Moreover, the majority found that the1986 re-enactment of the provision substantially altered it and occurred without evidence of racial bias. Additionally, the majority ruled that the VRA prohibition against voting qualifications that result in the abridgment of the right to vote on account of a person's race did not apply to Florida's felon disenfranchisement provision. To rule otherwise would allow a congressional enactment overrule a federal constitutional provision (Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment) and would be contrary to legislative intent , in the view of the majority. Concurring, Circuit Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat wrote that the cause of the denial of the right to vote to felons in Florida consists entirely of their conviction, not their race.

The plaintiffs sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the application for a writ of certiorari was denied. Johnson v. Bush, 546 U.S. 1015 (2005).

A post-remand effort to re-open the judgment was denied by the district court in December 2006. Judge King also then denied a certificate of appealability, according to the district court's docket sheet. A May 2007 motion to reconsider the case was also denied. Appeals of these rulings were dismissed for failure to pay filing fees. In August 2007, another motion to re-open the case was filed, followed by an October 2007, memorandum in support.

The district court repeatedly denied Defendant Rivera's motion to reopen the case. The United States Court of Appeals denied the Defendant's motion to reopen for failing to pay the requisite filling fees. On July 14, 2008 the Court of Appeals dismissed the case for want of prosecution. The case is now closed.

Justin Benson - 03/02/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Alachua County Election Supervisor
Broward County Election Supervisor
Clemency Board of Florida
Governor of Florida
Hillsborough County Election Supervisor
Miami-Dade County Election Supervisor
Orange County Election Supervisor
Pinellas County Election Supervisor
Secretary of State of Florida
Plaintiff Description All Florida citizens who have been convicted of felonies and fully completed the periods of incarceration and/or supervision to which they were sentenced (“ex-felons”), but remain ineligible to register or vote because a felony conviction.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:00-cv-03542-JLK (S.D. Fla.) 12/01/2008
CJ-FL-0005-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment 07/18/2002 (214 F.Supp.2d 1333) (S.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
USCA Order 12/19/2003 (353 F.3d 1287)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
USCA Opinion 07/20/2004 (377 F.3d 1163)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
USCA Opinion 04/12/2005 (405 F.3d 1214)
CJ-FL-0005-0006 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Petition for Writ of Certiorari 08/10/2005
CJ-FL-0005-0001 PDF | Detail
Cert. Denied. 11/14/2005 (546 U.S. 1015)
CJ-FL-0005-0007 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Anderson, Robert Lanier III (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Barkett, Rosemary (Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Birch, Stanley F. Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Black, Susan Harrell (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Carnes, Edward Earl (Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Dubina, Joel Fredrick (Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Ala.) [Magistrate]
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Edmondson, James Larry (Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Fullam, John Patrick (E.D. Pa.)
CJ-FL-0005-0004
Hull, Frank M. (N.D. Ga., Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
King, James Lawrence (S.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Kravitch, Phyllis A. (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Pryor, William Holcombe Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Fifth Circuit, M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit)
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Wilson, Charles R. (Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla.) [Magistrate]
CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Allen, Jessie (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Borgen, Lori Outzs (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Diamond, Gregory A. (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Dingle, Shanya (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Earls, Anita S. (North Carolina)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Fineman, Cara J. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Gallagher, Philip (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Goldberg, Deborah A. (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Green, James K. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Greenbaum, Jon M. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Hodgkiss, Anita S. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Johnson, James E. (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Levitt, Justin (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Metzger, Gillian E. (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Moustakis, Caroline H. (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Neuborne, Burt (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Northup, Nancy (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Rohlik, Philip (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Still, Edward (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Weiser, Jennifer R. (New Jersey)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Weiss, Catherine (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0001
Zollo, Nina Marie (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Allen, Herbert Raymond II. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Bloch, Jason Edward (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Brand, Rachel L. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Buschel, Robert Craig (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Campbell, Mary Helen (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Candela, William X. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Carvin, Michael (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Cirullo, Michael David Jr. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Cooper, Charles Justin (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Cotton, Thomas B. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0006
Ehrlich, Jeffrey Paul (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Ginsburg, Robert A (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Goren, Samuel Stuart (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Hancock, Paul F. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Harvey, Walter James (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Hume, Hamish P.M. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Labasky, Ronald Albert (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Lindsay, Alvin F. III (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Ott, Robert M. (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Pittman, Robert Wayne (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Shaffer, Derek L. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Steg, Betsy M (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Thompson, David H. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006 | CJ-FL-0005-9000
Waas, George Lee (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Wagner, David (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0003
Wysong, Danna (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-9000
Other Lawyers Benjamin, James J. (California)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Chung, Nancy (California)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Cosgrove, John Russel-Cotes (California)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Engelmayer, Paul Adam (New York)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Gross, Mark L. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Guthridge, Clay G. (District of Columbia)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
McCarty, Mark A. (Georgia)
CJ-FL-0005-0006
Schwartz, Stacey Michelle (Florida)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006
Treat, Charles S. (California)
CJ-FL-0005-0004 | CJ-FL-0005-0005 | CJ-FL-0005-0006

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