Jones v. Desantis, CASE NO. 4:19cv300-RH/MJF

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
Writing for the CourtRobert L. Hinkle, United States District Judge
Citation462 F.Supp.3d 1196
Parties Kelvin Leon JONES et al., Plaintiffs, v. Ron DESANTIS et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCASE NO. 4:19cv300-RH/MJF
Decision Date24 May 2020

462 F.Supp.3d 1196

Kelvin Leon JONES et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Ron DESANTIS et al., Defendants.

CASE NO. 4:19cv300-RH/MJF

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division.

Signed May 24, 2020


Michael A. Steinberg, Tampa, FL, for Plaintiffs Kelvin Leon Jones, Luis A. Mendez.

Blair S. Bowie, Danielle Marie Lang, Mark P. Gaber, Jonathan Michael Diaz, Molly Elizabeth Danahy, Campaign Legal Center, Washington, DC, Chad W. Dunn, Brazil & Dunn, Miami, FL, for Plaintiffs Bonnie Raysor, Diane Sherrill.

Jonathan Topaz, Julie A. Ebenstein, Rodkangyil Orion Danjuma, American Civil Liberties Union, David Morris Giller, Pietro John Signoracci, Paul Weiss Rifkind etc., Eliza Sweren-Becker, Sean Morales-Doyle, Brennan Center for Justice, Myrna Perez, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, John Spencer Cusick, Leah Camille Aden, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc., New York, NY, Anton Marino, Daniel Boaz Tilley, ACLU Foundation of Florida Inc., Miami, FL, Jennifer A. Holmes, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington, DC, Jimmy Midyette, Jr., Jacksonville, FL, Wendy Robin Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice, New York City, NY, for Plaintiff Jeff Gruver.

Jonathan Topaz, Julie A. Ebenstein, Rodkangyil Orion Danjuma, American Civil Liberties Union, David Morris Giller, Pietro John Signoracci, Paul Weiss Rifkind etc., Eliza Sweren-Becker, Sean Morales-Doyle, Brennan Center for Justice, Myrna Perez, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, John Spencer Cusick, Leah Camille Aden, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc., New York, NY, Anton Marino, Daniel Boaz Tilley, ACLU Foundation of Florida Inc., Miami, FL, Jennifer A. Holmes, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington, DC, Wendy Robin Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice, New York City, NY, for Plaintiffs Emory Marquis Mitchell, Betty Riddle, Keith Ivey, Karen Leicht, Raquel Wright, Steven Phalen, Clifford Tyson, Jermaine Miller, Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Orange County Branch of the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Florida.

Jonathan Topaz, Julie A. Ebenstein, Rodkangyil Orion Danjuma, American Civil Liberties Union, David Morris Giller, Pietro John Signoracci, Paul Weiss Rifkind etc., Eliza Sweren-Becker, Sean Morales-Doyle, Brennan Center for Justice, Myrna Perez, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, John Spencer Cusick, Leah Camille Aden, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc., New York, NY, Anton Marino, Daniel Boaz Tilley, ACLU Foundation of Florida Inc., Miami, FL, Jennifer A. Holmes, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington, DC, Wendy Robin Weiser, Brennan Center for Justice, New York City, NY, for Plaintiff Kristopher Wrench.

Caren E. Short, Nancy Gbana Abudu, Southern Poverty Law Center, Decatur, GA, for Plaintiffs Rosemary McCoy, Sheila Singleton.

Danielle Marie Lang, Mark P. Gaber, Campaign Legal Center, Washington, DC, Chad W. Dunn, Brazil & Dunn, Miami, FL, for Plaintiff Lee Hoffman.

Eliza Sweren-Becker, Brennan Center for Justice, Leah Camille Aden, NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund Inc., New York, NY, Anton Marino, Daniel Boaz Tilley, ACLU Foundation of Florida Inc., Miami, FL, for Plaintiffs Curtis D. Braynt, Latoya A. Moreland.

Joseph W. Jacquot, Nicholas Allen Primrose, Joshua E. Pratt, Executive Office of the Governor Office of the General Counsel, Tallahassee, FL, Colleen M. Ernst, Office of General Counsel, for Defendant Ron Desantis.

Stephen Mark Todd, Office of the County Attorney, Tampa, FL, for Defendant Craig Latimer.

Ashley E. Davis, Bradley Robert McVay, Florida Department of State Office of General Counsel, Edward M. Wenger, Gary Vergil Perko, Mohammad Omar Jazil, Hopping Green & Sams PA, George N. Meros, Jr., Tara R. Price, Holland & Knight LLP, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Laurel M. Lee.

Corbin Frederick Hanson, Geena Marcela Cesar, Robert Charles Swain, Alachua County Attorneys Office, Gainesville, FL, for Defendant Kim A. Barton.

Adam M. Katzman, Nathaniel Adam Klitsberg, Rene Devlin Harrod, Broward County Attorneys Office, Fort Lauderdale, FL, George N. Meros, Jr., Tara R. Price, Holland & Knight LLP, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Peter Antonacci.

Craig Dennis Feiser, Office of General Counsel, Jacksonville, FL, for Defendant Mike Hogan.

Dylan T. Reingold, Indian River County, Vero Beach, FL, for Defendant Leslie Rossway Swan.

Mark Herron, Summer Denay Brown, Messer Caparello & Self PA, Tallahassee, FL, for Defendant Mark Earley.

Morgan Ray Bentley, Bentley & Bruning PA, Asarasota, FL, for Defendants Michael Bennett, Ron Turner.

Michael Beny Valdes, Oren Rosenthal, Miami-Dade County Attorneys Office, Miami, FL, for Defendant Christina White.

Nicholas Ari Shannin, Shannin Law Firm PA, Orlando, FL, for Defendant Bill Cowles.

OPINION ON THE MERITS

Robert L. Hinkle, United States District Judge

462 F.Supp.3d 1203

The State of Florida has adopted a system under which nearly a million otherwise-eligible citizens will be allowed to vote only if they pay an amount of money. Most of the citizens lack the financial resources to make the required payment. Many do not know, and some will not be able to find out, how much they must pay. For most, the required payment will consist only of charges the State imposed to fund government operations—taxes in substance though not in name.

The State is on pace to complete its initial screening of the citizens by 2026, or perhaps later, and only then will have an initial opinion about which citizens must pay, and how much they must pay, to be allowed to vote. In the meantime, year after year, federal and state elections will pass. The uncertainty will cause some citizens who are eligible to vote, even on the State's own view of the law, not to vote, lest they risk criminal prosecution.

This pay-to-vote system would be universally decried as unconstitutional but for one thing: each citizen at issue was convicted, at some point in the past, of a felony offense. A state may disenfranchise felons and impose conditions on their reenfranchisement. But the conditions must pass constitutional scrutiny. Whatever might be said of a rationally constructed system, this one falls short in substantial respects.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has already ruled, in affirming a preliminary injunction in this very case, that the State cannot condition voting on payment of an amount a person is genuinely unable to pay. See Jones v. Governor of Fla. , 950 F.3d 795 (11th Cir. 2020). Now, after a full trial on the merits, the plaintiffs' evidence has grown stronger. This order holds that the State can condition voting on payment of fines and restitution that a person is able to pay but cannot condition voting on payment of amounts a person is unable to pay or on payment of taxes, even those labeled fees or costs. This order puts in place administrative procedures that comport with the Constitution and are less burdensome, on both the State and the citizens, than those the State is currently using to administer the unconstitutional pay-to-vote system.

I. The Consolidated Cases

These are five consolidated cases. The plaintiffs assert the requirement to pay to vote is unconstitutional across the board or alternatively as applied to those who are unable to pay the amount at issue. There are differences from one case to another in the plaintiffs' legal theories and in the named defendants. All the defendants are named only in their official capacities.

In No. 4:19cv301, the plaintiffs are Bonnie Raysor, Diane Sherrill, and Lee Hoffman, individually and on behalf of a class and subclass. The defendants are the Florida Secretary of State and, under a consented amendment,1 the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. These plaintiffs assert the pay-to-vote system violates the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which prohibits a state from denying or abridging the right to vote in a federal election by reason of failure to pay "any poll tax or other tax." On this claim the plaintiffs represent a class of all persons who would be eligible to vote in Florida but for unpaid financial obligations, with this exception: named plaintiffs in the other

462 F.Supp.3d 1204

consolidated cases are excluded from the class.

These plaintiffs also assert the pay-to-vote system discriminates against citizens who are unable to pay and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause. On this claim the plaintiffs represent a subclass of all persons who would be eligible to vote in Florida but for unpaid financial obligations that the person asserts the person is genuinely unable to pay, again excluding other named plaintiffs.

Finally, these plaintiffs assert, but not on behalf of a class, that the pay-to-vote system is void for vagueness, denies procedural due process, and violates the National Voter Registration Act, 52 U.S.C. § 20501 et seq.

In No. 4:19cv302, the plaintiffs are 12 individuals and 3 organizations. The individuals are Jeff Gruver, Emory Marquis Mitchell, Betty Riddle, Karen Leicht, Keith Ivey, Kristopher Wrench, Raquel L. Wright, Steven Phalen, Jermaine Miller, Clifford Tyson, Latoya A. Moreland, and Curtis D. Bryant. The...

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8 practice notes
  • Florida State Conference of NAACP v. Lee, Case No.: 4:21cv187-MW/MAF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • October 8, 2021
    ...close and could reasonably be decided either way[,] .... [o]n balance, ... SB7066 was not motivated by race." Jones v. DeSantis , 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 1235, 1238 (N.D. Fla. 2020). Accordingly, citations to SB 7066 do not support Plaintiffs' case.13 Because the parties have not briefed the ......
  • League of Women Voters of Fla. Inc. v. Lee, 4:21cv186-MW/MAF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 31, 2022
    ...facie case, a plaintiff need only show that race was a motivating factor in adoption of a challenged provision.” Jones v. DeSantis, 462 F.Supp.3d 1196, 1235 (N.D. Fla. 2020). Put another way, the question before this Court is not whether the Florida Legislature is racist. Nor is the questio......
  • People First of Ala. v. Merrill, Civil Action Number 2:20-cv-00619-AKK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • August 17, 2020
    ...Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius , 567 U.S. 519, 564, 132 S.Ct. 2566, 183 L.Ed.2d 450 (2012) ; see also Jones v. DeSantis , 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 1231–32 (N.D. Fla. 2020) (finding that the standard definition of tax applies to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment). The plaintiffs do not allege......
  • Acad. for Positive Learning, Inc. v. Sch. Bd. of Palm Beach Cnty., No. 4D19-2816
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 24, 2021
    ...voter referendums, and acknowledge their condemnation of court-sanctioned voter disenfranchisement, see, e.g., Jones v. DeSantis, 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196 (N.D. Fla.), rev'd en banc sub nom., Jones v. Governor of Fla. , 975 F.3d 1016 (11th Cir. 2020). However, it should be emphasized that the d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Florida State Conference of NAACP v. Lee, Case No.: 4:21cv187-MW/MAF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • October 8, 2021
    ...close and could reasonably be decided either way[,] .... [o]n balance, ... SB7066 was not motivated by race." Jones v. DeSantis , 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 1235, 1238 (N.D. Fla. 2020). Accordingly, citations to SB 7066 do not support Plaintiffs' case.13 Because the parties have not briefed the ......
  • League of Women Voters of Fla. Inc. v. Lee, 4:21cv186-MW/MAF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 31, 2022
    ...facie case, a plaintiff need only show that race was a motivating factor in adoption of a challenged provision.” Jones v. DeSantis, 462 F.Supp.3d 1196, 1235 (N.D. Fla. 2020). Put another way, the question before this Court is not whether the Florida Legislature is racist. Nor is the questio......
  • People First of Ala. v. Merrill, Civil Action Number 2:20-cv-00619-AKK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • August 17, 2020
    ...Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius , 567 U.S. 519, 564, 132 S.Ct. 2566, 183 L.Ed.2d 450 (2012) ; see also Jones v. DeSantis , 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 1231–32 (N.D. Fla. 2020) (finding that the standard definition of tax applies to the Twenty-Fourth Amendment). The plaintiffs do not allege......
  • Acad. for Positive Learning, Inc. v. Sch. Bd. of Palm Beach Cnty., No. 4D19-2816
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • February 24, 2021
    ...voter referendums, and acknowledge their condemnation of court-sanctioned voter disenfranchisement, see, e.g., Jones v. DeSantis, 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196 (N.D. Fla.), rev'd en banc sub nom., Jones v. Governor of Fla. , 975 F.3d 1016 (11th Cir. 2020). However, it should be emphasized that the d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • 'IN WHOM IS THE RIGHT OF SUFFRAGE?': THE RECONSTRUCTION ACTS AS SOURCES OF CONSTITUTIONAL MEANING.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 169 Nbr. 7, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...[https://perma.cc/L9F2-VSYZ]. (61) Jones v. DeSantis, 462 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 1205 (N.D. Fla. 2020) (quoting FLA. CONST, art. VI, [section] (62) THE SENT'G PROJECT, supra note 59, at 13. Some media outlets place the number of affected individuals at well over a million. See, e.g., Lawrence Mo......

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