University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
view search results
page permalink
Case Name Thompson v. Alabama CJ-AL-0015
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-00783-WKW-CSC ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection Criminalization of poverty
Case Summary
Section 177(b) of the Alabama Constitution disenfranchises individuals with convictions of felonies "involving moral turpitude." In 1985, the Supreme Court held that the 1901 drafters of the disenfranchisement provision specifically selected the vague and arbitrary "moral turpitude" standard in ... read more >
Section 177(b) of the Alabama Constitution disenfranchises individuals with convictions of felonies "involving moral turpitude." In 1985, the Supreme Court held that the 1901 drafters of the disenfranchisement provision specifically selected the vague and arbitrary "moral turpitude" standard in order to disenfranchise blacks. Hunter v. Underwood, 471 U.S. 222 (1985). But in 1996, Alabama put the exclusion back into its Constitution (though this time limiting it to felony convictions). The scope of the rule is unclear; in 2005, the state attorney general issued an opinion which did little to correct the ambiguity. A crime of “moral turpitude,” he wrote, is “an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow men or to society in general.” Whether to allow someone with a felony conviction to register to vote is up to each county's registrar.

This lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, on September 26, 2016, to challenge the exclusion. Plaintiffs are a class of unregistered persons otherwise eligible to register to vote in Alabama who are now, or who may be in the future, denied the right to vote because of their felony conviction. They are represented by a large consortium of lawyers, including private counsel in Alabama and South Carolina, the Campaign Legal Center, the Washington DC office of Jenner & Block, voting rights expert and Stanford Professor Pam Karlan, and Georgetown Law's Institute for Public Representation. The defendant is the State of Alabama.

The plaintiffs alleged that Alabama's exclusionary law and practices are racially discriminatory in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause and the Voting Rights Act; and that they abridge the fundamental right to vote in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment (fundamental rights equal protection doctrine), the First Amendment, Due Process, and the Ex Post Facto Clause, among other claims. The plaintiffs also complain that the provisions of Alabama law that allow convicted felons to petition for restoration of their voting rights if they have paid any ordered restitution constitute a poll tax. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages.

The case was assigned to Chief Judge William Keith Watkins. On November 16, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The plaintiffs are to file a response on or before December 8, 2016.

Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 11/15/2016


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Equal Protection
Ex Post Facto
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Voting
Voter qualifications
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Voting Rights Act, section 2, 42 U.S.C. § 1973
Defendant(s) State of Alabama
Plaintiff Description A class of unregistered persons otherwise eligible to register to vote in Alabama who are now, or who may be in the future, denied the right to vote because they have a felony
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  Philadelphia Forfeiture
http://ij.org/case/philadelphia-forfeiture/
Date: Aug. 11, 2014
By: Institute for Justice (Institute for Justice)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:16-cv-783 (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/19/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class-Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/26/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Watkins, William Keith (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0015-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Amunson, Jessica Ring (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Blacksher, James U. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Derfner, Armand Georges (South Carolina)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Francois, Aderson B. (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Herbert, J. Gerald (Virginia)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Karlan, Pamela S. (California)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Lang, Danielle (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Llewellyn, Patrick D. (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
McGuire, Joseph Mitchell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0015-0001 | CJ-AL-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brasher, Andrew L. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0015-9000
Davis, James William (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0015-9000
Messick, Misty Shawn Fairbanks (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0015-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
view search results
page permalink

- top of page -