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Case Name Jones v. DeSantis CJ-FL-0009
Docket / Court 4:19-cv-00300 ( N.D. Fla. )
Additional Docket(s) 4:19-cv-00301  [ 19-301 ]  Northern District of FL (U.S.)
4:19-cv-00302  [ 19-302 ]  Northern District of FL (U.S.)
1:19-cv-00121  [ 19-121 ]  Northern District of FL (U.S.)
4:19-cv-00272  [ 19-272 ]  Northern District of FL (U.S.)
4:19-cv-00304  [ 19-304 ]  Northern District of FL (U.S.)
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Election/Voting Rights
Special Collection Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Brennan Center for Justice
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Southern Poverty Law Center
Case Summary
In the fall of 2018, Florida voters amended the Florida Constitution, restoring voting rights to most people convicted of felonies “upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.” (This excluded people convicted of murder or sexual offenses.) On June 28, 2019, ... read more >
In the fall of 2018, Florida voters amended the Florida Constitution, restoring voting rights to most people convicted of felonies “upon completion of all terms of sentence, including parole or probation.” (This excluded people convicted of murder or sexual offenses.) On June 28, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 7066 into law, defining “all terms of sentence” to include payment of all conviction-related restitution, fines, fees, and costs (“legal financial obligations”). People who could not determine the amount of their obligations, or who could not afford to pay them, were effectively disenfranchised.

In June and July 2019, five lawsuits were filed challenging SB7066:
  • June 15, Mendez v. DeSantis
  • June 28, Jones v. DeSantis
  • June 28, Raysor v. Lee
  • June 28, Gruver v. Barton
  • July 1, McCoy v. DeSantis
All five suits, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, were assigned to Chief Judge Mark Walker. Consolidated on June 30, 2019 for purposes of case management, they were ultimately tried together as a single consolidated case. Chief Judge Walker recused himself on July 17, 2019, because his wife’s law firm had been retained to represent one of the defendants. The consolidated case was reassigned to Judge Robert L. Hinkle.

The plaintiffs were 19 individuals, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the NAACP Florida State Conference, and the Orange County Branch of the NAACP. Each group of plaintiffs advanced different legal theories and named different defendants. Combined, the consolidated suit named as defendants Governor DeSantis, his Secretary of State, and the Supervisor of Elections for each county where an individual plaintiff resided. The consolidated suit alleged that SB7066 violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution; the First, Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Fourth Amendments; the National Voter Registration Act; and the Florida Constitution. The plaintiffs, represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, the ACLU of Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief restoring their voting rights.

In their amended complaint of July 16, 2019, the Raysor plaintiffs sought class certification (which was eventually granted on April 7, 2020). The proposed class included “all persons who would be eligible to vote in Florida but for unpaid financial obligations.” Class members asserting that they were “genuinely unable to pay” would form a subclass.

The Governor petitioned the Florida Supreme Court on August 9, 2019 for an advisory opinion on the validity of SB7066. The court’s advisory opinion of January 16, 2020 announced that the constitutional amendment’s language “all terms of sentence” would have been understood by Florida voters to include “all legal financial obligations imposed in conjunction with an adjudication of guilt.” While awaiting this advisory opinion, the Governor unsuccessfully sought a stay of proceedings in the district court.

On August 15, 2019, the court denied the Supervisors of Elections’ motion to dismiss the case or to stay discovery. The Gruver plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction the same day. The injunction was granted on October 18, 2019, effective against all defendants except the Governor and the Supervisor of Elections for Orange County. The injunction prohibited officials from taking any action to prevent the named plaintiffs from registering to vote (if they asserted inability to pay) or from voting (if they demonstrated their inability to pay). Simultaneously, the court denied the Governor and the Secretary of State their motion to dismiss or abstain. 410 F. Supp. 3d 1284. The Eleventh Circuit upheld on February 19, 2020. 950 F.3d 795.

The Gruver plaintiffs sought in late October to expand the preliminary injunction to cover four additional named plaintiffs who were seeking to vote in November municipal elections. This motion was denied the first week of January 2020.

In the meantime, the district court partially stayed the injunction on December 19, 2019. While still protecting the plaintiffs’ ability to register, the modified injunction did not guarantee their ability to vote. This partial stay expired on February 11, 2020. The Eleventh Circuit upheld the preliminary injunction on February 19, ruling that, among other things, the state’s pay-to-vote requirement should be analyzed under a standard of heightened scrutiny rather than rational basis review. 950 F.3d 795.

On March 30, 2020, the court denied the state defendants’ motion for summary judgment, but dismissed the plaintiffs’ abandoned Ex Post Facto and Florida Constitution claims. The plaintiffs’ class certification motion was granted the following week, on April 7 (not in time for class members to vote in the March 2020 presidential primaries).

The trial was held from April 27–May 6 by videoconference (due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The court issued its opinion on the merits on May 24, 2020. Ruling that the state was in violation of the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments and the National Voter Registration Act, the court declared Florida’s requirements unconstitutional as applied to: those who could not vote because they could not afford to pay; those who could not vote because the amount to pay was unknown and “cannot be determined with diligence”; and those who could not vote because they owed the state “fees” or “costs.” However, a requirement to pay “fines and restitution…is not unconstitutional as applied to those who are able to pay.” The court named each plaintiff and specifically declared his or her eligibility to vote. It ruled that the plaintiffs in McCoy, Raysor, and Gruver could collect attorneys’ fees and costs (the plaintiffs in Jones and Mendez had not actively participated in the majority of the litigation).

As to the class and the subclass, the court issued an injunction requiring the state to create and advertise a form for obtaining an individual advisory opinion on voting eligibility. The injunction specified that if the state failed to respond to an individual submission within 21 days, the person would be automatically eligible to vote. It further directed the state to publish requirements for voting eligibility following a felony conviction.

The court explicitly retained jurisdiction to enforce the declaration and injunction.

The state defendants appealed the ruling on June 1, 2020. On June 14, the district court denied their motion to stay the ruling pending appeal. On July 1, the Eleventh Circuit granted the state’s motion for initial hearing en banc (that is, before the entire court, rather than a panel of three judges). Without explanation, it also granted a stay of the district court’s injunction, pending appeal. The Supreme Court, also without explanation and over a dissent by Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg, and Kagan, denied a request to lift the stay.

On July 15, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a motion in the Eleventh Circuit seeking to disqualify 3 of the court’s 12 judges from hearing the appeal. Judges Lagoa and Luck had been justices of the Florida Supreme Court when it issued its advisory opinion in this case in August 2019; both had committed to the United States Senate that they would recuse themselves from cases in which they had previously played a role. Judge Brasher, as the Solicitor General of Alabama, had vigorously defended Alabama against a similar lawsuit shortly before his appointment to the federal judiciary.

As of July 17, 2020, the Eleventh Circuit has granted expedited appeal with oral arguments scheduled for August 18, 2020, in Atlanta.

Nelius Wanjohi - 10/02/2019
Bogyung Lim - 03/26/2020
Gregory Marsh - 06/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
Equal Protection
Ex Post Facto
Excessive bail/fines
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Poverty/homelessness
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Voting
Election administration
Voter qualifications
Voter registration rules
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361
National Voter Registration Act ("Motor Voter law"), 52 U.S.C. § 20501 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg)
State law
Defendant(s) State of Florida
Ten Florida Counties
Plaintiff Description 19 formerly incarcerated people in Florida who would be eligible to vote if they could pay their conviction-related financial obligations; a class and subclass of similarly situated people; the League of Women Voters of Florida; the NAACP Florida State Conference; and the Orange County NAACP.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Brennan Center for Justice
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 06/15/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-FL-0008 : Gruver v. Barton (N.D. Fla.)
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
4:19-cv-00300-RH-MJF (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive Relief, Declaratory Relief, and Mandamus [ECF# 1]
CJ-FL-0009-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/15/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint for Injunctive Relief, Declaratory Relief, and Mandamus [ECF# 1]
CJ-FL-0009-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-FL-0009-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-FL-0009-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
CJ-FL-0009-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 84]
CJ-FL-0009-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/16/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying the Motion To Dismiss or Abstain and Granting a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 207] (410 F.Supp.3d 1284) (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/18/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 7]
CJ-FL-0009-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/28/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 12]
CJ-FL-0009-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/29/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 26]
CJ-FL-0009-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/29/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Staying the Preliminary Injunction in Part [ECF# 244] (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Compelling Discover from the Plaintiffs Jones and Mendez and Awarding Attorney's Fees [ECF# 256] (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/28/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida [Ct. of App. ECF# BL-103] (950 F.3d 795)
CJ-FL-0009-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/19/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Certifying a Class and Subclass [ECF# 321] (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion on the Merits [ECF# 420 (& 420-1 to 420-2)] (2020 WL 2618062) (N.D. Fla.)
CJ-FL-0009-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Dissent] (2020 WL 4006868)
CJ-FL-0009-0017.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/16/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
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Judges Frank, Michael J. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0017
Hinkle, Robert Lewis (N.D. Fla.) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0004 | CJ-FL-0009-0006 | CJ-FL-0009-0007 | CJ-FL-0009-0008 | CJ-FL-0009-0009 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Kagan, Elena (SCOTUS) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0017
Rothstein, Barbara Jacobs (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0005
Sotomayor, Sonia (S.D.N.Y., Second Circuit, SCOTUS) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0017
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abudu, Nancy G (Alabama) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0015 | CJ-FL-0009-0016 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Aden, Leah C. (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0012 | CJ-FL-0009-0013 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Bowie, Blair S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Cusick, John (New York) show/hide docs
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Danahy, Molly (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Danjuma, Rodkangyil Orion (New York) show/hide docs
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Diaz, Jonathan (New York) show/hide docs
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Dunn, Chad W (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0002
Dunn, Chad W (Florida) show/hide docs
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Ebenstein, Julie A (New York) show/hide docs
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Gaber, Mark P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Giller, David Morris (New York) show/hide docs
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Ho, Dale E. (New York) show/hide docs
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Holmes, Jennifer Amelia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Lang, Danielle Marie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Marino, Anton (Florida) show/hide docs
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Midyette, Jimmy (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0012 | CJ-FL-0009-0013 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Morales-Doyle, Sean (New York) show/hide docs
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Perez, Myrna (New York) show/hide docs
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Short, Caren Elaine (Georgia) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0015 | CJ-FL-0009-0016 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Signoracci, Pietro J. (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0013 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Steinberg, Michael A. (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-0001 | CJ-FL-0009-0014 | CJ-FL-0009-9000
Sweren-Becker, Eliza (New York) show/hide docs
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Tilley, Daniel Boaz (Florida) show/hide docs
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Topaz, Jonathan (New York) show/hide docs
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Weiser, Wendy R. (New York) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Bentley, Morgan Ray (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Brown, Summer Denay (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Cesar, Geena Marcela (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Davis, Ashley E. (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Ernst, Colleen M (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Feiser, Craig D. (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Hanson, Corbin Frederick (Florida) show/hide docs
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Harrod, Rene Devlin (Florida) show/hide docs
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Herron, Mark (Florida) show/hide docs
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Jacquot, Joseph W (Florida) show/hide docs
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Jazil, Mohammad Omar (Florida) show/hide docs
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Katzman, Adam M (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Klitsberg, Nathaniel Adam (Florida) show/hide docs
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McVay, Bradley Robert (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Meros, George N Jr. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Perko, Gary Vergil (Florida) show/hide docs
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Pratt, Joshua E (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Price, Tara R. (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Primrose, Nicholas Allen (Florida) show/hide docs
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Reingold, Dylan T (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Rosenthal, Oren (Florida) show/hide docs
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Shannin, Nicholas Ari (Florida) show/hide docs
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Swain, Robert Charles (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Todd, Stephen Mark (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Valdes, Michael Beny (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Wenger, Edward M (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Other Lawyers Awan, Naila S (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Bains, Chiraag (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Carpenter, Whitley (North Carolina) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000
Trevisani, Dante Pasquale (Florida) show/hide docs
CJ-FL-0009-9000

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