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Case Name Florida State Conference Of Branches and Youth Units Of the NAACP v. Lee VR-FL-0175
Docket / Court 4:21-cv-00187-WS-MAF ( N.D. Fla. )
State/Territory Florida
Case Type(s) Election/Voting Rights
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
This lawsuit challenges Florida's Senate Bill 90 (SB 90), which limited certain voting-related practices such as drop boxes, third-party ballot return, vote-by-mail applications, and activities in the vicinity of polling places. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights Florida, ... read more >
This lawsuit challenges Florida's Senate Bill 90 (SB 90), which limited certain voting-related practices such as drop boxes, third-party ballot return, vote-by-mail applications, and activities in the vicinity of polling places. The Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Disability Rights Florida, and Common Cause brought this suit on May 6, 2021, against the Secretary of State of Florida in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida under the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs claimed that the law violated the First Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. They asserted that SB 90 created an undue burden on the right to vote, was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, constituted race discrimination, and failed to provide reasonable accommodations under Title II of the ADA. The plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief barring the defendants from enforcing SB 90.

On May 7, Senior Judge William Stafford recused himself from the case and it was reassigned to Judge Allen C. Winsor. On May 14, the case was reassigned to Chief Judge Mark E. Walker.

The Republican National Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee filed a motion to intervene on May 20, 2021. They argued that they had an interest in ensuring that the plaintiffs did not upend Florida’s duly enacted rule and that the defendant could not adequately represent their interest.

On May 28, 2021, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the plaintiffs only stated blanket assertions of entitlement to relief and failed to sufficiently match any of their over one hundred factual allegations to their five claims. The motion also asserted that the plaintiffs’ ADA claim should be dismissed because their injuries can’t be specifically attributed to the Secretary of State’s actions. Further, the defendant stated that the plaintiffs’ claims regarding restrictions on interacting with voters in voting lines should be dismissed because the alleged injuries could be more properly linked to county Supervisors of Elections who were not agents of the Secretary. The defendant conceded that the plaintiffs might be able to sustain their VRA and undue burden claims under a generous reading of the complaint, so the court should, at a minimum, should dismiss the other three claims.

On June 8, 2021, Judge Walker granted the RNC and National Republican Senatorial Committee’s motion to intervene because he found that they had an interest in the case and adding them as defendants would not unduly delay the adjudication of the case or prejudice the original parties’ rights.

Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint on June 11, 2021. The plaintiffs added new defendants, the 67 county Supervisors of Elections in Florida. The complaint alleged nine total counts, six specifically against the Secretary and all nine against the Supervisors. The plaintiffs separated their cause of action for intentional race discrimination into three claims, alleging that the SB 90 violated the VRA and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. They asserted that the Secretary and Supervisors were liable for the discrimination caused by the drop box restrictions, and other voting restrictions imposed by SB 90. They argued that SB 90’s restrictions coupled with Florida’s long history and ongoing record of racial discrimination and the events leading up to the passage of SB 90 raised strong inferences of Fourteenth Amendment violations.

As a result of this amended complaint, on June 14, 2021, Judge Walker dismissed the defendants’ motion to dismiss as moot. The Secretary filed a new motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on June 25, 2021.

Prior, the court consolidated this case with two others on June 17, 2021 (Harriet Tubman Freedom Fighters v. Lee, et al., 21-cv-00242 and League of Women Voters v. Lee 21-cv-00186) for discovery purposes only. The court deferred the question of consolidating for trial until after discovery was completed. These cases also challenged SB 90 as racially discriminatory. Judge Walker declined to consolidate the cases with 21-cv-00201 because it was not before his court.

On July 7, 2021, 66 of the Supervisors filed a motion to be excused from active participation in the case, but Judge Walker denied this motion with leave to renew on the same day. He stated that the court first needed to determine which of the plaintiffs’ claims were justiciable against the Secretary and whether the plaintiffs had standing for each claim against the Secretary.

From August 13 until September 1, 2021, the various defendants filed their answers to the first amended complaint.

The parties engaged in discovery over the next few weeks. On October 8, 2021, Judge Walker issued an order granting in part and denying in part the Secretary’s motion to dismiss. Judge Walker dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for lack of standing against the Supervisors regarding volunteers who assist voters in returning vote-by-mail ballots because the injuries were not traceable to the Supervisors. Judge Walker permitted the undue burden claim to proceed because the plaintiffs pled sufficient facts to show that restrictions on mail-in ballots denied people the right to vote and imposed a special burden on vulnerable voters. Judge Walker also denied the motion to dismiss for the plaintiffs’ intentional discrimination claim, ADA claim, and the claim that the drop box restrictions discriminated against Black and Latino voters because they had plausibly pleaded the facts.

Discovery continued, and on November 11, 2021, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. They asserted that the plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient evidence to prove intentional race-based discrimination, disability discrimination, or discriminatory impact of SB-90. They further argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing because the nonprofit organizations failed to show that they or their members would be substantially burdened by the law. On November 13, 2021 the defendants filed a corrected memorandum in support of summary judgment which updated the citations to exhibits in light of technical difficulties they encountered with the first filing. The case is ongoing.

Devon Schmidt - 11/18/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Mobility impairment
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Race discrimination
General
Voting
Voting access
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Race
Black
Race, unspecified
Voting
Election administration
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Voting Rights Act, section 2, 52 U.S.C. § 10301 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973)
Voting Rights Act, section 208 (assistance for disabled persons), 52 U.S.C. § 10508 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 1973aa-6)
Defendant(s) County Supervisors of Elections
Secretary of State of Florida
Plaintiff Description Nonprofit civil rights and disability rights organizations.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations 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 05/06/2021
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)
N.D. Fla.
11/15/2021
4:21-cv-00187-MW-MAF
VR-FL-0175-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Fla.
05/06/2021
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
VR-FL-0175-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Fla.
06/11/2021
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 45]
VR-FL-0175-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
N.D. Fla.
10/08/2021
Order on Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 249] (2021 WL 4818913)
VR-FL-0175-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
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Judges Fitzpatrick, Martin A. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
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Walker, Mark Eaton (N.D. Fla.) show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Cavataro, Benjamin L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Choi, Ellen (California) show/hide docs
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Duke, Peter Benjamin DeWitt (New York) show/hide docs
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Fajana, Morenike (New York) show/hide docs
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Fletcher, Michael Anthony II (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Fouhey, Elizabeth T (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Fram, Robert D. (California) show/hide docs
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Khazem, Jad H (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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King, Nellie Linn (Florida) show/hide docs
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Merle, Natasha C. (New York) show/hide docs
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Morris, John Z (New York) show/hide docs
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Nasseri, Cyrus S (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Pernick, Michael (New York) show/hide docs
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Poliak, Sham M (New York) show/hide docs
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Reed, Mahogane D (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Saunders, Morgan Elizabeth (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Trigg, Amia L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Williamson, Virginia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Bardos, Andy V. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Begakis, Steven Christopher (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Benda, Kyle J (Florida) show/hide docs
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Bentley, Morgan Ray (Florida) show/hide docs
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Bledsoe, William Kevin (Florida) show/hide docs
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Brown, Summer Denay (Florida) show/hide docs
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Chappell, William David (Florida) show/hide docs
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Cuffe, Edward Paul (Florida) show/hide docs
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Cycon, John J (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Daines, Kenneth Clark (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Davis, Ashley E. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Ellis, Elizabeth Desloge (Florida) show/hide docs
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Feiser, Craig D. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Giannini, Mary Margaret (Florida) show/hide docs
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Gibson, Benjamin J (Florida) show/hide docs
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Gordon, Philip M. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Green, Tyler R. (Utah) show/hide docs
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Herron, Mark (Florida) show/hide docs
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Holt, Dallin B (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Janousek, John M (Florida) show/hide docs
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Jarone, Joseph K (Florida) show/hide docs
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Jazil, Mohammad Omar (Florida) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Kia M (Florida) show/hide docs
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Jouben, Jon A (Florida) show/hide docs
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Klitsberg, Nathaniel Adam (Florida) show/hide docs
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Labasky, Ronald Albert (Florida) show/hide docs
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Lavia, John T III (Florida) show/hide docs
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Mari, Frank Michael (Florida) show/hide docs
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Masters Johnson, Diana (Florida) show/hide docs
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McVay, Bradley Robert (Florida) show/hide docs
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Meros, George N Jr. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Mood, Kirsten H (Florida) show/hide docs
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Nordby, Daniel E. (Florida) show/hide docs
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Norris, Cameron T. (Virginia) show/hide docs
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O'Brien, Colleen E (Florida) show/hide docs
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Olivo, Geraldo Francis III (Florida) show/hide docs
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Ott, London Lee (Florida) show/hide docs
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Perko, Gary Vergil (Florida) show/hide docs
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Rosenthal, Oren (Florida) show/hide docs
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Salzillo, Benjamin (Florida) show/hide docs
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Scott, Dale A (Florida) show/hide docs
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Shannin, Nicholas Ari (Florida) show/hide docs
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Shapiro, Daniel Joseph (Virginia) show/hide docs
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Shearman, Robert C (Florida) show/hide docs
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Smith Erdelyi, Susan (Florida) show/hide docs
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Stewart, Gregory Thomas (Florida) show/hide docs
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Stoner Nunnally, Amber (Florida) show/hide docs
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Swain, Robert Charles (Florida) show/hide docs
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Todd, Stephen Mark (Florida) show/hide docs
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Valdes, Michael Beny (Florida) show/hide docs
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Vicari, Kelly Lynn (Florida) show/hide docs
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Zacherl, Frank A (Florida) show/hide docs
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