Voting Rights

As principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Mr. Cooper had supervisory responsibility over voting rights litigation conducted during the first term of the Reagan Administration. He prepared the brief for the Department in the seminal voting rights case, Gingles v. Thornburgh, 478 U.S. 1 (1986). In private practice, Mr. Cooper has continued to litigate numerous voting rights cases arising both under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. Most recently, Mr. Cooper served as the National Co-Chair of Lawyers for Bush and was one of the architects of the campaign’s post-election litigation strategy.

Cases we have litigated in this area include:

  • Howell v. McAuliffe, 788 S.E.2d 706 (Va. 2016).
    We successfully represented six voters, including the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Majority Leader of the Virginia Senate, in a challenge to the Governor of Virginia’s en masse restoration of certain civil rights, including the right to vote. We had filed an original petition for a writ of mandamus directly in the Supreme Court of Virginia. The principal issue in this litigation was the scope of the Governor’s clemency power. After expedited briefing and oral argument, the Supreme Court of Virginia agreed with us that the text and history of Virginia’s clemency power prohibited the Governor from restoring civil rights en masse.
  • Johnson v. Governor of Florida, 405 F.3d 1214 (11th Cir. 2005). 
    We represented Governor Jeb Bush and the other members of Florida’s clemency board in their defense of Florida’s felon disenfranchisement laws against a class action filed on behalf of 400,000 convicted felons. The plaintiffs brought suit under the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The district court granted our motion for summary judgment. After an adverse ruling from a dividend panel, the Eleventh Circuit sitting en banc affirmed the dismissal of the suit.
  • Rossello-Gonzalez. v. Calderon-Serra, 398 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2004).
    We successfully represented the Governor-Elect of Puerto Rico in a recount dispute in connection with the 2004 elections. The opposing candidate for governor challenged the validity of several thousand ballots. Although the district court ruled in favor of the opposition candidate, the First Circuit reversed and ruled in favor of our client who is now serving as the Commonwealth’s governor.

We have also represented many state and local governments in voting rights litigation:

  • Alabama
    In 1993, we successfully represented the Governor of Alabama in a congressional redistricting case in a Mobile, Alabama federal district court. The principal issue in this litigation was also Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the creation of districts where blacks constitute a majority. Our position prevailed in court, and we also successfully defeated a subsequent challenge at the Justice Department.
  • Alaska
    We represented the Reapportionment Board of Alaska, which is responsible for that state’s redistricting, with respect to the Voting Rights Act and constitutional issues involved in that process. In that regard, we successfully urged the Justice Department to approve the Board’s state legislative redistricting, over the objections of several Native Alaskan groups alleging minority vote dilution.
  • Georgia
    The City of Augusta, Georgia, and Richmond County, Georgia, retained us to seek a declaratory judgment granting Section 5 approval to a proposed plan consolidating the county and city governments, notwithstanding a prior Section 5 objection to the plan by the Department of Justice. We were also retained by the State of Georgia to assist it in obtaining Section 5 approval of electoral changes involving state judges.
  • New Mexico
    We represented the State of New Mexico in a lawsuit brought by the United States, under Section 2 and other provisions of the Act, challenging various practices alleged to have a discriminatory effect on Native Americans. After the State had filed a motion for partial summary judgment, the parties agreed to settle the case.
  • New York
    We represented the New York State Senate in connection with redistricting for both Congress and the state legislature. We obtained the Justice Department’s approval, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, of both the Congressional redistricting plan and the plan for the State Senate — the only reapportionment schemes in New York to receive the Department’s approval. We also successfully defended against two state court challenges to the Senate reapportionment brought under the New York Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. We defended the Congressional plan against a challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that sought to create an additional Hispanic Congressional district in New York City.

Mr. Cooper also represented the United States in numerous voting rights cases, including:

  • Dougherty County Board of Education v. White, 439 U.S. 32 (1978).
  • City Council of the City of Chicago v. Ketchum, 471 U.S. 1135 (1985), cert. denied, 740 F.2d 1398 (7th Cir. 1984).
  • Brooks v. Winter, 461 U.S. 921 (1983).
  • City of Lockhart v. United States, 460 U.S. 125 (1983).
  • Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986).
  • United States v. Marengo County Commission, 731 F.2d 1546 (11th Cir. 1984).
  • Edge v. Sumter County School District, 775 F.2d 1509 (11th Cir. 1985).
  • Jordan v. City of Greenwood, 711 F.2d 667 (5th Cir. 1983).
  • United States v. Dallas County Commission, 739 F.2d 1529 (11th Cir. 1984).
  • Arriola v. Harville, 781 F.2d 506 (5th Cir. 1986).
  • United States v. City of Cambridge, 799 F.2d 137 (4th Cir. 1986).
  • Leroy v. City of Houston, 831 F.2d 576 (5th Cir. 1987).
  • Dillard v. Crenshaw County, 831 F.2d 246 (11th Cir. 1987).
  • Chisom v. Edwards, 839 F.2d 1056 (5th Cir. 1988).
  • City of Pleasant Grove v. United States, 479 U.S. 462 (1987).
  • Haith v. Martin, 618 F. Supp. 410, aff’d, 477 U.S. 901 (1985).
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