University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name O'Neal v. Goins VR-TN-0068
Docket / Court 15-373-TTT ( State Court )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Election/Voting Rights
Case Summary
On March 25, 2015, a former inmate filed this class action lawsuit in the Tennessee Chancery Court for Davidson County to regain voting rights for all persons who had their citizenship rights restored pursuant to Tennessee Code section 40-29-201. Like many other states, Tennessee revokes the voting ... read more >
On March 25, 2015, a former inmate filed this class action lawsuit in the Tennessee Chancery Court for Davidson County to regain voting rights for all persons who had their citizenship rights restored pursuant to Tennessee Code section 40-29-201. Like many other states, Tennessee revokes the voting rights of certain felons. Section 40-29-201, however, allows a state circuit court to restore those rights. The plaintiff brought this suit against the Coordinator of Elections for the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee State Election Commission. The plaintiff claimed that despite having his citizenship rights restored in an earlier proceeding, the defendants refused to restore plaintiff's right to vote. Represented by private counsel, the plaintiff sought declaratory, injunctive, and any other relief the court found reasonable and necessary, asserting that the defendants had improperly refused to restore his right to vote.

The defendants soon moved to dismiss the complaint. Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle granted the motion, dismissing the case with prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim for relief. The court held that the claims against the defendants in their official capacities were barred by sovereign immunity because the plaintiff did not allege that they were enforcing an unconstitutional statute. The class action certification was denied because the allegations of the complaint failed to satisfy the numerosity, commonality, and typicality requirements required by state law.

The plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeals of Tennessee. On July 29, 2016, Judge Richard H. Dinkins affirmed dismissal of the complaint and denial of the application to amend, however, he modified the judgment to make the dismissal without prejudice.

This case is now closed.

Abigail DeHart - 02/07/2017
Hannah Greenhouse - 03/23/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Voting
Voter qualifications
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Tennessee State Election Commission
Plaintiff Description Former felons seeking the right to vote.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Complaint
VR-TN-0068-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/25/2015
Opinion (2016 WL 4083466)
VR-TN-0068-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/13/2016
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Judges Dinkins, Richard Hovey Court not on record show/hide docs
VR-TN-0068-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers McClellan, Elizabeth R. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
VR-TN-0068-0001

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