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S.D. Fla.

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Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (1:17-cv-1320), ACLU v. Trump (1:17-cv-1351), and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (1:17-cv-1354) (Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, D.D.C.) and Joyner v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (Marcia G. Cooke, S.D. Fla. 1:17-cv-22568)
In mid-2017, President Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission’s vice chair asked all states to submit extensive voter registration data to the commission. Following states’ reluctance to comply and lawsuits challenging the request, President Trump disbanded the commission early in 2018.
Subject: Voting irregularities. Topics: Registration procedures; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Siegel v. LePore (Donald M. Middlebrooks, S.D. Fla. 9:00-cv-9009) and Touchston v. McDermott (John Antoon II, M.D. Fla. 6:00-cv-1510)
Among the litigation over who won the presidential contest in Florida in 2000 were two emergency actions filed in two of Florida’s three districts seeking federal court intervention in manual recounts. Both judges denied the plaintiffs immediate relief, and the court of appeals affirmed those decisions en banc. Reviewing a decision by the state’s supreme court, however, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the manual recount procedures violated equal protection.
Subject: Recounts. Topics: Recounts; matters for state courts; intervention; equal protection; military ballots; absentee ballots; election errors; voting technology; enjoining certification; Electoral College; voter identification.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Diamond v. Town of Manalapan (Patricia A. Seitz, S.D. Fla. 9:02-cv-80065)
A few weeks before a town commission election, four voters filed a federal complaint alleging malapportionment of commission districts because four commissioners represented 89 residents on one side of town and two commissioners represented 232 residents on the other side of town. The district judge denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, which would disrupt a scheme that had been in place for decades, but ordered a constitutionally valid plan be in place within approximately six months. Following conversion of the commission to at-large elections with at least two commissioners from each side of town, the judge granted a voluntary dismissal of the suit.
Topics: Malapportionment; intervention; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

O’Boyle v. City of Delray Beach (Donald M. Middlebrooks, S.D. Fla. 9:14-cv-80270)
A municipal candidate’s federal complaint alleged that a neighboring municipality was wrongfully taking down the candidate’s campaign signs in the defendant’s municipality. The district judge set the case for hearing on a Friday, four days after the complaint was filed, but the defendant city sought time to find outside counsel because an assistant city attorney was named in the complaint. The judge reset the hearing for the following Monday, but he urged the parties to come to a temporary agreement. A stipulated temporary restraining order forbade the defendant city from taking down the plaintiff’s signs in locations where campaign signs were permitted. Months later, the judge awarded the defendant city summary judgment because the taking down of the plaintiff’s signs resulted from a single city worker’s error that subsequently was corrected.
Topic: Campaign materials.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Diaz v. Hood (James Lawrence King, S.D. Fla. 1:04-cv-22572)
Eight days after voter registration closed for the 2004 general election, three would-be voters and four unions filed a federal complaint alleging that five counties were improperly failing to process and approve voter registrations. At the end of the week, the district court heard a motion to expedite the case; at the end of the following week, the court heard a motion for a preliminary injunction. Four days later, the court dismissed the case for lack of standing, because the plaintiffs either cured or refused to cure their registration defects. In 2005, the court of appeals reversed the dismissal. The district court ruled against the plaintiffs again in 2006, but without prejudice. After a five-day bench trial on a third amended complaint, the court again ruled against the plaintiffs, finding the firm deadline for voter registration to be constitutionally reasonable.
Topics: Registration procedures; National Voter Registration Act; intervention; recusal.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

League of Women Voters of Florida v. Browning (Cecilia M. Altonaga, S.D. Fla. 1:08-cv-21243)
On April 28, 2008, the League of Women Voters filed a federal action in the Southern District of Florida challenging Florida’s regulation of voter registration as so burdensome as to cause the League to suspend its voter registration efforts. On the following day, the district judge held a hearing, ordered the parties to submit a proposed consent order on the next day, and set a preliminary injunction hearing for June 19. On August 6, the court denied the League a preliminary injunction. Similar cases were filed in 2006 in the Southern District and in 2011 in the Northern District.
Topics: Registration procedures; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Mazzilli v. Townsley (William J. Zloch, S.D. Fla. 1:12-cv-22432)
A Florida statute provides that a primary election is open to all voters if only one party fields a candidate for the general election. A ruling by Florida’s secretary of state specifies that if anyone registers as a write-in candidate for the general election, then the primary election remains closed to voters who are not party members. Several weeks before a primary election in which only one party had candidates, two voters challenged the secretary’s ruling. Less than one month later, the court denied immediate injunctive relief because the plaintiffs had failed to include the secretary of state as a defendant. Twelve days later, reviewing an amended complaint, the court held the secretary’s ruling a reasonable interpretation of an unambiguous statute serving legitimate interests.
Topics: Primary election; write-in candidate.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Florida Democratic Party v. Detzner (Joan A. Lenard and Ursula Ungaro, S.D. Fla. 1:12-cv-24000)
Late on the Saturday before the 2012 general election, because of long lines during early voting, a party filed a complaint seeking relief from anticipated long lines on election day at the polls in three counties. The assigned judge was out of the district when the case was filed, so another judge, selected at random, handled the emergency motion. In response to the lawsuit, the counties created additional opportunities for in-person absentee voting.
Topics: Absentee ballots; early voting; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Friedman v. Snipes (Patricia A. Seitz and Alan S. Gold, S.D. Fla. 1:04-cv-22787)
On the day of the 2004 general election, three voters filed a federal complaint claiming that although they requested absentee ballots on time they did not receive them in time to cast them without a risk that the ballots would not be counted. The district judge assigned to the case set a status hearing for the following morning, but on the day of the hearing she recused herself at the request of the state’s secretary of state because of her husband’s legal work for one of the major political parties. The judge to whom the case was reassigned reset the hearing for later that day. The second judge granted a temporary restraining order segregating the ballots in question, but he ultimately denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction after an evidentiary hearing.
Topics: Absentee ballots; ballot segregation; recusal; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

In 2010, the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules requested a study of motions for sanctions based on an allegation that the nonmoving party had destroyed evidence, especially electronically stored information (ESI). The study examined the electronic docket records of civil cases filed in 2007–2008 in 19 districts, including at least one district in every circuit except the District of Columbia Circuit. This report summarizes the findings of that study and, where appropriate, compares those findings to other studies.

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