On September 29, 2005, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. filed a lawsuit originally on behalf of Mr. Richard Gooden in Alabama state court against the Alabama Secretary of State and the Jefferson County Registrar, challenging the denial of Mr. Gooden's right to vote because of a ...
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On September 29, 2005, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. filed a lawsuit originally on behalf of Mr. Richard Gooden in Alabama state court against the Alabama Secretary of State and the Jefferson County Registrar, challenging the denial of Mr. Gooden's right to vote because of a felony DUI conviction. Gooden, a 64-year-old African-American citizen and a lifetime resident of Alabama, alleged that while Alabama's Constitution permitted people with felony convictions not involving moral turpitude to register to vote, the Secretary of State had instructed officials not to register such persons unless they received a "Certificate of Eligibility" from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Gooden challenged the practice and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The same day, the NAACP filed a separate action in federal court, challenging the practice as violating Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. [See CJ-AL-3].
On November 18, 2005, the Alabama Attorney General, on behalf of the State of Alabama, moved to intervene in the case. The State confessed judgment on one of plaintiff's counts and acknowledged that Gooden's felony conviction - driving under the influence -- was not a crime involving moral turpitude, and, therefore, that he was not barred from registering and voting. The Jefferson County Registrar then agreed to register Gooden.
Defendants moved to dismiss the remaining claims for lack of standing and mootness.
On December 19, 2005, Gooden filed a first amended complaint, which named an additional plaintiff. The amended complaint also sought certification of a class of plaintiffs consisting of all "unregistered persons otherwise eligible to register to vote in Alabama who have been convicted of one or more felonies, but who have not been convicted of any felonies involving moral turpitude." It also sought certification of a defendant class consisting of all "voter registrars in the State of Alabama." The complaint was subsequently amended several times and more plaintiffs were added.
Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims, arguing that the case no longer presented a justiciable controversy in that all of the relief requested by the plaintiffs, namely their registration to vote, had been granted.
On August 23, 2006, the trial court entered a "class certification order and final order on all pending issues." The Court granted the attorney general's motion to intervene and entered a summary judgment for the defendants on several counts of the amended complaint. The trial judge certified a plaintiff class and a defendant class and granted the plaintiffs declaratory and equitable relief, ordering the state voter registrars to allow all felons who were otherwise qualified to vote to be permitted to vote until the enactment and gubernatorial approval of a statute which specifically named all disqualifying felonies. Defendants appealed.
On June 1, 2007 the Alabama Supreme Court (Justice Woodall) reversed in part the trial court's ruling that ordered the Secretary of State and Jefferson County registrar to immediately "cease and desist in refusing voter registration" to individuals on the basis of a felony conviction. The Supreme Court found that while state and local election officials had acted contrarily to the State Constitution and laws, no further injunctive relief was necessary under the circumstances. Chapman v. Gooden, 2007 WL 1576103 2007 Ala. LEXIS 98 (Ala. Jun 01, 2007) (NO. 1051712).Dan Dalton - 11/27/2007