Moore v. Lee, M2022-00434-SC-RDO-CV

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtRoger A. Page, C.J.
Citation644 S.W.3d 59
Parties Akilah MOORE, et al. v. William LEE, et al.
Docket NumberM2022-00434-SC-RDO-CV
Decision Date13 April 2022

644 S.W.3d 59

Akilah MOORE, et al.
v.
William LEE, et al.

No. M2022-00434-SC-RDO-CV

Supreme Court of Tennessee, AT NASHVILLE.

FILED APRIL 13, 2022


David W. Garrison, Scott P. Tift, and Josh Spragens, Nashville, Tennessee, for the plaintiffs Akilah Moore, Telise Turner, and Gary Wright.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Janet M. Kleinfelter, Deputy Attorney General; Alexander S. Rieger, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Pablo A. Varela, Assistant Attorney General for the defendants, William Lee, as Governor of Tennessee, in his official capacity, Tre Hargett, as Tennessee Secretary of State, in his official capacity, and Mark Goins, as Tennessee Coordinator of Elections, in his official capacity.

Roger A. Page, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Jeffrey S. Bivins, Holly Kirby, and Sarah K. Campbell, JJ., joined. Sharon G. Lee, J., filed a separate dissenting opinion.

Roger A. Page, C.J.

The Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging the reapportionment plan for the districts of the Tennessee Senate that the Tennessee General Assembly enacted after the 2020 census. Specifically, the Plaintiffs alleged that the reapportionment plan violates article II, section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution because it fails to consecutively number the four Senatorial districts included in Davidson County. The Plaintiffs requested declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted a temporary injunction enjoining the Defendants from enforcing or giving any effect to the boundaries of the Senatorial districts. The trial court provided the General Assembly with fifteen days to remedy the defect pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-18-105, stating that if the defect was not remedied, the trial court would impose an interim plan for the 2022 election. Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-5-101(a)(1) sets the deadline for filing candidate nominating petitions as the first Thursday in April at noon. Thus, the trial court further extended the statutory April 7, 2022 filing deadline for Senatorial candidates until May 5, 2022. The Defendants filed an application for extraordinary appeal in the Court of Appeals pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. This Court assumed jurisdiction over the case pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d)(3). We conclude that the trial court erred by granting the injunction because it failed to adequately consider the harm the injunction will have on our election officials who are detrimentally impacted by the extension of the candidate filing deadline, as well as the public interest in ensuring orderly elections and avoiding voter confusion. We vacate the injunction and remand to the trial court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Following the 2020 census, the General Assembly reapportioned the districts for the Tennessee State Senate as required by

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article II, section 4 of the Tennessee Constitution. This was done through Senate Bill 0780, which was passed by both Houses of the General Assembly, and signed into law by the Governor as Public Chapter 596 on February 6, 2022 ("the Senate plan").

On February 23, 2022, the Plaintiffs, who are three registered voters in Tennessee, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the constitutionality of the Senate plan.1 On March 1, 2022, this Court affirmed a decision by the trial court that the statutory criteria for a three-judge panel under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-18-101(a) (2021)2 had been satisfied. The Court selected Judge J. Michael Sharp and Chancellor Steven W. Maroney to sit with Chancellor Russell T. Perkins, to whom the case was originally assigned ("the panel" or "the trial court").

On March 2, 2022, the Plaintiffs filed a "motion to set hearing and expedited briefing schedule on plaintiffs[’] motion for summary judgment, or in the alternative, for expedited trial." The Defendants filed a response in opposition, and the panel held a telephonic conference. On March 8, 2022, the panel entered an order denying the motion, stating it "was not convinced that it had authority to expedite the proceedings in the fashion requested in the motion," and that

[g]iven all the attendant circumstances, including Defendants’ preliminary estimate that they needed to develop expert proof to defend Plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges and the possibility that discovery might be necessary, the Panel concludes that expediting these proceedings as requested would not allow the important constitutional questions to be fully and meaningfully considered and adjudicated on the merits.3

On March 11, 2022, the Plaintiffs filed their first amended verified complaint as well as a motion for temporary injunction. In their amended complaint, the Plaintiffs asked the panel to declare that the Senate plan violates article II, section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution by failing to consecutively number the Senatorial districts in Davidson County. In their amended complaint and motion for temporary injunction, the Plaintiffs further asked the panel to (1) prohibit the Defendants from enforcing or giving any effect to the Senate plan, including barring the Defendants

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from conducting any elections under the plan; (2) provide the General Assembly with fifteen days to remedy the identified constitutional defects, consistent with Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-18-105 (2021) ; (3) enact an interim redistricting plan applicable to the 2022 state legislative elections if the General Assembly failed to remedy the identified constitutional defects by the court-imposed deadline; and (4) delay the April 7, 2022 candidate filing deadline until May 20, 2022, or such other date as the court deemed appropriate. The Defendants filed a response in opposition, and the Plaintiffs filed a reply in support of their motion. The parties also filed various affidavits and documents in support of their respective positions. On March 31, 2022, the court held a non-evidentiary hearing on the motion for temporary injunction.

On the afternoon of April 6, 2022, a majority of the panel issued an order granting a temporary injunction with respect to the Senate plan.4 The panel majority found that the Plaintiffs had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional challenge to the Senate plan and a risk of irreparable harm sufficient to warrant the issuance of extraordinary relief in the form of a temporary injunction. The panel majority also stated that the Plaintiffs had made a sufficient showing on the question of the public interest and the balancing of harms as to the Senate plan. Thus, the panel temporarily enjoined the effectiveness of the Senate plan and (1) directed the Defendants not to give any effect to the Senate plan or hold any elections under the plan pending further orders of the court; (2) provided the General Assembly with fifteen days to remedy the constitutional defect; (3) declared that, if the General Assembly fails to remedy the defect, the panel will impose an interim apportionment map for the Tennessee Senate; and (4) extended the April 7, 2022 noon filing deadline for prospective state Senatorial candidates to May 5, 2022, at noon, which is fifteen days earlier than the date proposed by the Plaintiffs in their motion for temporary injunction. Chancellor Maroney dissented from enjoinment of the Senate plan, stating he believes a full evidentiary hearing is required to address the claims and defenses regarding the Senate plan.

On April 7, 2022, the Defendants sought review of the panel's decision enjoining the Senate plan by filing in the Court of Appeals an Application for Extraordinary Appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Defendants also filed an Emergency Motion to Stay Pending Extraordinary Appeal pursuant to Rule 7 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, requesting that the injunction be stayed pending appeal and seeking expedited review. On April 8, 2022, this Court, on its own motion, entered an order pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 16-3-201(d)(3) (2021)5 finding that the application raised issues of compelling public interest, and assuming jurisdiction over the case. We granted the Defendants’ request to expedite review and ordered the Plaintiffs to file an answer to the application and a response to the motion to stay by Monday, April 11, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. The Plaintiffs timely filed an answer. Following receipt of the Plaintiffs’

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answer, this Court entered an order on April 11, 2022, granting the Defendants’ application for extraordinary appeal, and ordering that the case be submitted to the Court for decision without further briefing or oral argument. See Tenn. R. App. P. 10(d) ; Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 48(d). We now issue our decision.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"The trial court's decision to grant the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary injunction is discretionary and is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard." Fisher v. Hargett , 604 S.W.3d 381, 395 (Tenn. 2020). "A court abuses its discretion when it causes an injustice to the party challenging the decision...

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