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Section 1983 Litigation

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Gwinnett County NAACP v. Gwinnett County Board of Registration and Elections (Steven D. Grimberg, N.D. Ga. 1:20-cv-912)
A federal complaint filed on the Thursday before three weeks of early voting set to begin on Monday challenged election officials’ decision to offer early voting at only one location in the county during the first week. The district court held a hearing on Monday afternoon and denied the plaintiffs immediate relief, finding no constitutional entitlement to additional early voting locations.
Subject: Absentee and early voting. Topics: Early voting; primary election; 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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This dramatic reenactment provides an example and insights of how mediation between a prison inmate and relevant state officials unfolds.  Guided by an experienced mediator, both sides present and discuss their cases, with the goal to achieve a mutually agreed upon resolution. 

Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure calls for “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Section 1983 inmate civil rights cases can thwart that expectation, and such cases represent about 11% of civil cases filed nationwide. In an effort to reduce the amount of time these cases consume and their costs, the District of Nevada developed an inmate early mediation program that has enjoyed marked success. Court to Court visited the district court in Reno to learn why the program has been so successful. 

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Kuhn v. Thompson (Mark E. Fuller, M.D. Ala. 2:03-cv-1136)
A 2003 complaint challenged the disciplinary removal of Alabama’s chief justice for his violating a federal order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court building’s rotunda. The district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate injunctive relief and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. (1) The defendants were entitled to Younger v. Harris abstention because the chief justice’s appeal to Alabama’s supreme court was still pending. (2) The defendants were entitled to judicial immunity. (3) The plaintiffs failed to state a valid claim because the right to elect the chief justice did not include a right to keep him in office for his whole term.
Topics: Matters for state courts; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; enforcing orders.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Harris County Department of Education v. Harris County (Lee H. Rosenthal, S.D. Tex. 4:12-cv-2190)
A county’s department of education filed a federal complaint after a primary election for its board of trustees was held using malapportioned district lines instead of interim lines imposed by a federal judge in another case while preclearance of new lines was pending. The district judge presiding over the new case found no constitutional violation because of a lack of intent, and she found that the equities weighed against the plaintiff because it was unlikely that the districting error had an effect on the election’s ultimate outcome.
Subject: District lines. Topics: Election errors; enjoining elections; malapportionment; intervention; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; primary election.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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Schwier v. Cox (Julie E. Carnes, N.D. Ga. 1:00-cv-2820)
On October 26, 2000, two voters filed a federal complaint challenging a requirement that they provide Social Security numbers as part of their voter registrations. On Friday, November 3, the district judge ruled that to vote the plaintiffs could file their Social Security numbers with election officials and with the court under seal; depending on the resolution of the case, the numbers would either be unsealed or destroyed. In 2002, the district judge ruled that an uncodified provision of the Privacy Act did not provide the plaintiffs with rights of action, but the court of appeals determined in 2003 that the uncodified provision was nevertheless applicable law that did afford private rights of action.
Topics: Registration procedures; voter identification; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Atsaves v. Helander (Virginia M. Kendall, N.D. Ill. 1:08-cv-6199)
A voter registration team removed an action from state court seeking to segregate votes by voters registered by the team for investigation of improper registration. The district judge determined that the case did not present a federal question because the Help America Vote Act did not afford private rights of action, and relief from section 1983 requires willful and wanton conduct, which the plaintiffs had not alleged.
Topics: Help America Vote Act (HAVA); 42 U.S.C. § 1983; intervention; removal; matters for state courts.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Archival Copy on File

Section 1983 Litigation (Third Edition) analyzes the large number of recurring issues that arise in litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This monograph contains new sections on discovery, Bivens claims, new material on stops and searches, and model jury instructions. It includes case law from the October 2013 Supreme Court term ending June 30, 2014, and major courts of appeals and select district court decisions reported through June 30, 2014.

Out-of-print September 2016; no future editions of this title are currently planned.

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Sandusky County Democratic Party v. Blackwell (3:04-cv-7582) and League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Blackwell (3:04-cv-7622) (James G. Carr, N.D. Ohio)
Five weeks before the 2004 general election, Ohio’s Democratic Party challenged directives by Ohio’s secretary of state on provisional ballots as in violation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The court of appeals agreed with the district court that the state was out of compliance, but the court of appeals agreed with the secretary that provisional ballots should be cast in the correct precincts.
Topics: Help America Vote Act (HAVA); provisional ballots; voter identification; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; intervention; enforcing orders; presiding remotely; attorney fees.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

Available Online Only

Bay County Democratic Party v. Land (1:04-cv-10257) and Michigan State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Land (1:04-cv-10267) (David M. Lawson, E.D. Mich.)
Local branches of the Democratic Party filed a federal complaint to challenge a state directive that provisional ballots would only be counted if cast in the correct precinct. Three days later, three organizations filed a similar action in the same district, and the court consolidated the two cases. The district court denied a motion by voters to intervene as defendants, but the court permitted their participation as amici curiae. The court denied the Justice Department’s motion for a short delay so that it could file an amicus brief. Three weeks after the first case was filed, the court determined that provisional ballots must be counted so long as they are cast in the correct city, village, or township. One week later, the court of appeals reversed that decision in light of a contrary holding in another case issued on the same day.
Subject: Provisional ballots. Topics: Provisional ballots; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); 42 U.S.C. § 1983; intervention; case assignment.

One of many Case Studies in Emergency Election Litigation.

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