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Case Name Drumwright v. Cole PN-NC-0004
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-00998 ( M.D. N.C. )
Additional Docket(s) 1:20-cv-00997  [ 20-997 ]  Middle District of NC (U.S.)
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Policing
Attorney Organization ACLU Affiliates (any)
Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
Two consolidated federal district court cases in North Carolina alleged voter intimidation before the November 2020 elections. One was Drumright v. Cole, 1:20-cv-00998; the other was Allen v. City of Graham, 1:20-cv-00997. Both were filed on the same day by participants in the same event.
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Two consolidated federal district court cases in North Carolina alleged voter intimidation before the November 2020 elections. One was Drumright v. Cole, 1:20-cv-00998; the other was Allen v. City of Graham, 1:20-cv-00997. Both were filed on the same day by participants in the same event.

On October 31, 2020, police dispersed an event held in front of the Graham, NC courthouse, using pepper spray. The event titled, the "I Am Change March to the Polls," was held on the last day of early voting and same-day voting registration. Participants marched from the Wayman Chapel AME Church to the Alamance County Courthouse. Once arriving at the north-side of the courthouse, event organizers began assembling a small stage, gave a speech about a local Confederate monument, and held a silent vigil for George Floyd who had died in police custody. At the top of the courthouse’s northern steps was a row of deputies from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. According to the event's participants, police began dispersing the event seconds after the silent vigil ended and without warning. This prevented the event’s planned march to local polling stations. Many attendees sought medical attention because of the pepper spray.

On November 2, 2020, participants from the dispersed event filed two separate complaints in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Judge Catherine Eagles was assigned to both cases.
  • Plaintiffs in Drumwright v. Cole were represented by the ACLU of North Carolina and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Defendants included the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office and the Graham Police Department. The Drumwright plaintiffs pursued various federal claims including voter intimidation under 52 U.S.C. § 10307 (Voting Rights Act); first amendment suppression and excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and conspiracy to deprive plaintiffs’ civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Remedies sought included both injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that defendants’ dispersion violated the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The Drumwright plaintiffs also sought damages (including punitive damages) as well as attorney’s fees and costs.

  • Plaintiffs from Allen v. Graham were represented by private counsel and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Defendants included the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office, City of Graham, and the Graham Police Department. The Allen plaintiffs also brought very similar claims under 52 U.S.C. § 10307 (Voting Rights Act), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Relief sought included injunctive and declaratory relief stating that the police’s actions were unlawful. The Allen plaintiffs also sought damages (including punitive damages) as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
A month after filing, on December 4, 2020, before much more had happened, the Court consolidated the two cases, designating Allen as the lead.

On December 14, 2020, both the Drumwright and Allen plaintiffs filed amended complaints. Both complaints added new state law claims, including assault, battery, and violations of Article I, Sections 12 and 14 of the North Carolina Constitution which protects free speech and assembly. Both complaints also added additional plaintiffs who had participated in the event and additional defendants from the Graham Police Department and Alamance County Sheriff’s Office. The Drumwright plaintiffs added the City of Graham as a defendant.

On February 12, 2021, defendants from both the City of Graham and the Graham Police Department moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim and because of qualified immunity. The motion was directed at both Drumwright and Allen’s claims. Generally, defendants claimed that plaintiffs’ assertions were not specific enough to rise to an actionable claim. Further, they sought dismissal of claims under the North Carolina Constitution as plaintiffs have alternative remedies available.

On March 2, 2021, defendants from the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The motion was directed only at Drumwright’s claims. In the accompanying memorandum, these defendants presented similar arguments to those presented by Graham defendants the prior month.

On May 10, 2021, the Allen parties participated in mediation. According to the mediator’s report filed on May 21, 2021, the result was a settlement where “[o]nly [Allen] claims settled” and where Drumwright was “not mediated or settled.” The settlement provided that the parties would stipulate to the dismissal of all Allen claims with prejudice; that stipulation was filed June 25, 2021. We do not have the settlement documentation, which was not filed on the record. However, given that the settlement was effectuated by dismissal, it must not have included any court action or enforceability. Additionally, the mediator’s report stated that it included financial compensation.

The court issued an order addressing two motions on June 2, 2021. First, the court denied the Alamance County defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings. The motion was directed only at claims in Drumwright. Second, the court granted in part the Graham City defendants’ motion to dismiss. The motion had originally been directed at both Drumwright and Allen claims, but the Allen claims had settled in the meantime, mooting out the motion. Regarding the Drumwright claims, the court dismissed only the § 1983 constitutional claims against two defendants (the Graham Chief of Police and one other officer). The motion was otherwise denied. 2021 WL 2223772.

As of July 9, 2021, the remaining parties were conducting discovery with respect to the Drumwright part of the case; the Allen part was settled.

This case is ongoing.

Eric Gripp - 07/09/2021


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Unreasonable search and seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Excessive force
Pepper/OC spray
Voting
Voting access
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1985
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
State law
Voting Rights Act, unspecified, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 et seq (previously 42 U.S.C § 1973 et seq.)
Defendant(s) Alamance County Sheriff's Office
City of Graham
Graham Police Department
Plaintiff Description Numerous attendees and organizers of the "I Am Change March to the Polls" rally where alleged voter intimidation occurred.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Affiliates (any)
Lawyers Comm. for Civil Rights Under Law
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 11/02/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
M.D. N.C.
06/11/2021
1:20-cv-00998-CCE-LPA
PN-NC-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
06/25/2021
1:20-cv-00997-CCE-LPA
PN-NC-0004-9001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. N.C.
11/02/2020
Complaint for Temporary Restraining Order and Emergency Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PN-NC-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
12/04/2020
Order to Consolidate [ECF# 17]
PN-NC-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
12/14/2020
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 20]
PN-NC-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
05/21/2021
Amended Report of Mediator [ECF# 74]
PN-NC-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
06/02/2021
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 27] (2021 WL 2223772)
PN-NC-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. N.C.
06/25/2021
Stipulation of Dismissal [ECF# 80]
PN-NC-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Auld, Patrick Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Eagles, Catherine Caldwell (M.D. N.C.) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0002 | PN-NC-0004-0004 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Plaintiff's Lawyers Aden, Leah C. (New York) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Chandran, Ashok (New York) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Dorosin, Mark (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Graunke, Kristi L. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Haddix, Elizabeth (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Keith, Jason L (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000
Knight, Christopher A (Illinois) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9001
Lewis, Morgan (California) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Maffetore, Jaclyn A. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Merle, Natasha C. (New York) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Nwachukwu, Jennifer (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Phillips, Clarence William (New York) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Pipoly, Geoffrey M (Illinois) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9001
Siegel, Daniel K. (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0001 | PN-NC-0004-0003 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Spencer, Marianne E (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Sumter, Geraldine (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Thatte, Anuja Diwakar (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Albright, Clyde Ballinger (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Banks, Adam P (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9001
Biller, Anthony Joseph (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Flanagan, Patrick Houghton (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Gessner, Paul Gerard (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Hill, William L (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-0006 | PN-NC-0004-9000 | PN-NC-0004-9001
Lawrence, James R III (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PN-NC-0004-9001

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