On September 19, 2017, Cohen Milstein’s Theodore J. Leopold, Diana L. Martin, and Poorad Razavi achieved a major milestone in overcoming Defendants’ motion to dismiss in Hand et al., v. Scott et.al, Case No. 4:17-cv-00128-MW-CAS, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit in its entirety in an effort to prevent the court or a jury from ever evaluating Plaintiffs’ claims on the merits. On September 19, 2017, Judge Mark E. Walker denied that motion in part. As a result, the U.S. District Court will evaluate this matter of public importance on its merits. This case will likely be resolved at the summary judgment stage. The deadline for all briefings related to Motions for Summary Judgment, as well as Class Certification, is December 11, 2017.

Case Background

On March 13th, 2017, Cohen Milstein and Fair Elections Legal Network filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Florida’s Executive Clemency Board on behalf of seven convicted felons, and all those similarly situated, who have been released from incarceration, thereby repaying their debt to society, and whose applications for restoration of voting rights in the state of Florida were arbitrarily denied.

In Florida, convicted felons who have completed their sentences and want to restore their right to vote must successfully petition the Executive Clemency Board to have their right to vote reinstated.  The Executive Clemency Board is comprised of the Governor of Florida, the Attorney General, the Chief Financial Officer and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  The restoration application must be approved by a majority of the Board members and the Governor must be included in the majority.

The class action suit, filed in Tallahassee, alleges Florida’s voting rights restoration procedure is arbitrary in that there are no laws, rules, or regulations to guide the Executive Clemency Board’s decisions to reinstate or deny reinstatement of the fundamental right to vote, in violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments. The complaint seeks to reform Florida’s clemency process by properly restoring the rights of the Plaintiffs and other convicted felons who have completed their sentences, including parole and probation, and have, thereby, repaid their debts to society.

Cohen Milstein attorneys, Theodore J. Leopold, Diana L. Martin, and Poorad Razavi, and Jon Sherman, Senior Counsel at Fair Elections Legal Network, represent James Michael Hand, Joseph James Galasso, Harold W. Gircsis, Jr., Christopher Michael Smith, William Bass, Jermaine Johnekins, Kevin Michael Grenier, and Yraida Leonides Guanipa, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated.