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ECBAWM Secures Landmark Settlement Between Voting Rights Advocates and Private Security Company Charged with Voter Intimidation

A federal judge has approved a sweeping settlement in a lawsuit brought by voting rights advocates against a private security contractor, Atlas Aegis, for illegal voter intimidation in Minnesota. ECBAWM’s clients, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota (LWV-MN), celebrated the settlement as a major victory for democracy.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel approved a consent decree that resolves all remaining claims in the lawsuit. Under the consent decree, which lasts until January 1, 2025, Atlas Aegis and its Chairman and co-founder Anthony Caudle are:

  • Prohibited from deploying armed agents within 250 feet of (or otherwise monitoring) any early voting location during early voting, a polling place on election day, places where ballots are being counted, recounted, or canvassed; or where county canvassing boards or the State Canvassing Board are meeting to canvass, inspect, or declare the results of that election; or where Minnesota’s presidential electors are meeting to vote in the presidential general election.
  • Prohibited from otherwise taking any action to intimidate, threaten, or coerce voters, people aiding voters, or people engaged in tabulating, counting, or reporting votes.
  • Required to notify CAIR-MN and LWV-MN in writing 25 days before any federal election if they are supplying security personnel for any non-election-related protective services (e.g., providing security for an art exhibition or concert) where armed security personnel may be visible to the public within 250 feet of a polling place on election day.

Any violations of the consent decree will be enforceable as contempt of court.

The consent decree approved by the federal court requires the plaintiffs to state as follows:

“This matter has been resolved by agreement. The parties have agreed that Defendants shall be restricted in their actions as set forth in the terms of the attached Consent Decree. Defendants have not admitted any liability and specifically deny they have committed any statutory violation.”

Plaintiffs are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Matthew Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad, as well as Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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ECBAWM Files Set of Election Cases to Protect Voting Rights

Over the past week, ECBAWM has filed three federal lawsuits to protect voting rights for the November 3 election.

In Council on Islamic Relations-Minnesota and League of Women Voters of Minnesota v. Atlas Aegis LLC, et al., we filed a lawsuit against a private security contractor for voter intimidation in Minnesota. On Thursday, October 29, a federal court enjoined the contractor from coming within 2,500 feet of Minnesota polling sites and from intimidating Minnesota voters.

In Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., we filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the defendants, including President Donald J. Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolfe from continuing to intimidate voters.

Press
“’Threats Terrifyingly Credible’: Trump Administration Sued for Alleged ‘Violent’ Voter Intimidation” (Newsweek)
“Voting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation” (The Hill)
“Trump Sued Over Alleged Voter Intimidation By Rights Group” (Forbes)
“Calling Trump a ‘Clear Threat to Our Democracy,’ Civil Rights Group Sues Admin. Over Voter Intimidation” (Common Dreams)
“Civil rights group sues Trump administration over voter intimidation: A ‘clear threat to our democracy’” (AlterNet)
“Mi Familia Vota sues Trump admin, alleging election sabatoge” (The Tucson Sentinel)
“Mi Familia Vota Sues Trump Citing Pattern Of “Violently Suppressing Opposition, Sabotaging A Free And Fair Election” (Latin Life Denver)
“Group Says Trump Must Be Stopped From Sowing Election Day Chaos” (Courthouse News Service)

In Mi Familia Vota, Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, et al. v. Greg Abbott and Ruth Hughs, we filed an emergency motion to excise Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “voting” exemption from the statewide mask mandate. Our motion that would require voters and poll workers in Texas to wear masks during early voting and on Election Day was granted.

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Texas Governor’s Polling-Place Mask Exemption Struck Down by Federal Court

On Tuesday night a federal court granted ECBAWM’s emergency motion to invalidate Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “polling place” exemption to the statewide mask mandate. The carve-out from the mask requirement would have exposed voters and poll workers to increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and disproportionately impacted people of color. The defendants immediately appealed and obtained an administrative stay from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Plaintiffs have opposed the stay and expect a prompt ruling from the appellate court.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represented plaintiffs Mi Familia Vota and the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Federal Court Halts Planned Voter Intimidation in Minnesota

A federal court today granted ECBAWM’s request for a preliminary injunction against Atlas Aegis, Inc. and its chairman Anthony Caudle from moving forward with illegal plans to intimidate Minnesota voters. The Court’s order prohibits the defendants, a private security company with no ties to Minnesota, from deploying armed agents within 2,500 feet of any Minnesota polling place during early voting and on Election Day, as well as threatening to deploy armed agents to Minnesota or intimidating Minnesota voters in any way. Defendants must also disclose the names and contact information of the individuals alleged to have been involved in recruiting armed agents to intimidate voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs, along with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Mi Familia Vota, Texas NAACP and Individual Plaintiff Seek Emergency Order to Prevent Public Health Risk to Texas Voters

ECBAWM, along with Free Speech for People, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, and Lyons & Lyons, P.C., represents Mi Familia Vota, the Texas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and an individual plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs.

Plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to immediately excise the mask mandate exemption in Governor Abbott’s July 2, 2020, Executive Order relating to the use of face masks (Executive Order GA-29). While the Order specifically states that “requiring the use of face coverings is a targeted response that can combat the threat to public health using the least restrictive means,” and that “wearing a face covering is important not only to protect oneself, but also to avoid unknowingly harming fellow Texans,” it also includes an exemption for all people at polling places:

“Every person in Texas shall wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial entity or other building or space open to the public, or when in an outdoor public space, wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; provided, however, that this face-covering requirement does not apply to the following:

8. any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election, but wearing a face covering is strongly encouraged.”

This exemption to Executive Order GA-29 creates an unacceptable and unnecessary health risk to all poll workers and voters, but especially to Black and Latino voters, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and are likely to experience serious COVID-19 illnesses more frequently and with a higher rate of death as compared to white COVID-19 patients. Black and Latino voters are also more likely to wait in longer lines than white voters, increasing the chances for exposure to COVID-19.

Despite evidence of this increased risk and the Governor’s own acknowledgment, supported by scientific findings, that masks help combat the spread of COVID-19 by the “least restrictive means,” Governor Abbot has refused to withdraw the exemption for mask wearing at polling sites. Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that the exemption is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because it disproportionately burdens the rights of Black and Latino voters.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, and Debra L. Greenberger represent the plaintiffs.

Additional coverage of this case:
“5th. Cir. Revives Challenge to Texas’ Voter Mask Exemption” (Law360.com)
“Federal appeals court revives challenges to Texas election policy allowing poll workers to forgo wearing masks” (Jurist)

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ECBAWM Clients Sue Trump Administration for Voter Intimidation

Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and individual plaintiffs sued President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf for voter intimidation in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Ku Klux Klan Act, and the U.S. Constitution.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ threats to send “sheriffs” and other “law enforcement” to the polls, their encouragement of white supremacist “vigilantes” to monitor the polls, their undermining of mail-in voting, their violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, and their rejection of the peaceful transfer of power, collectively constitute illegal voter intimidation. A motion for preliminary injunctive relief and expedited declaratory relief was filed simultaneously with the complaint. The plaintiffs seek to enjoin defendants from continuing to intimidate voters and seek a declaration that defendants’ voter intimidation tactics are unlawful.

Media coverage of the lawsuit can be found at The Hill, Forbes, Newsweek, and Courthouse News.

ECBAWM attorneys Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Sam Shapiro, and Marissa Benavides represent the clients together with Free Speech for People and Mehri & Skallet, PLLC.

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ECBAWM Clients Challenge Campaign to Send Armed Guards to Minnesota Polls

Free Speech for People, Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, and Lathrop GPM LLP, filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of plaintiffs The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota and the League of Women Voters of Minnesota against a private mercenary contractor, Atlas Aegis, for voter intimidation in Minnesota. The complaint alleges that Atlas Aegis’s plan to hire and deploy armed ex-soldiers to polling sites in the state constitutes illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Press Release
More coverage of the lawsuit can be found on The Minnesota Reformer, Talking Points Memo, and Minneapolis Star Tribune.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. AbadyMatthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Vivake Prasad represent the plaintiffs, together with Free Speech For People and Lathrop GPM LLP.

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Federal Judge Extends Voter Registration Deadline In Arizona

Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate Victory Which Will Allow Thousands More to Register In Advance of the November 2020 Election

In response to a voting rights lawsuit, a federal judge in Arizona issued an order on October 5 extending the voter registration deadline in the state to October 23, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on voter registration.

“[A] core tenet of democracy is to be ruled by a government that represents the population,” U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan wrote in his decision. “Due to COVID-19, a portion of the population is prevented from registering to vote, and thus the integrity of the election is undermined in a different way; that portion is going unrepresented. Extending the deadline would give more time for those voters to register and let their voices be heard through the democratic process.”

ECBAWM LLP, together with Free Speech for People and Osborn Maledon P.A., represent Mi Familia Vota, the Arizona Coalition for Change, and an individual voter registration organizer who filed the lawsuit on September 30, seeking a court order extending the October 5 voter registration cutoff.

“This is a huge victory for democracy,” says Flavio Bravo of Mi Familia Vota. “With this court-ordered relief, thousands more voters will be able to register to vote in the midst of this pandemic and will be able to participate in the November 2020 election.”

This year, organizations that register citizens to vote were effectively prevented from registering voters from March 30, 2020, when Arizona imposed a stay-at-home order and other restrictions on day-to-day interactions in order to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, to the middle of August when those restrictions were lifted. As a result, new voter registration has been far lower than in previous years.

With the lifting of the state’s restrictions, plaintiffs have recently pivoted their operations to adapt to the pandemic, registering thousands of Arizona voters. Yet Arizona’s voter registration deadline—earlier than most states, threatened to prematurely halt those efforts.

“This ruling is a vindication of the fundamental right to vote,” says Reginald Bolding of the Arizona Coalition for Change. “Court intervention here was necessary to address the impact of the pandemic on voter registration. Thanks to this ruling, many more voters will have their voices heard in this election.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Zoe Salzman, and Nick Bourland represent the plaintiffs, together with Free Speech For People and Osborn Maledon P.A.

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Historic Settlement in Pennsylvania

ECBAWM has settled the 2016 Pennsylvania recount case brought by presidential candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voters. The lawsuit challenged Pennsylvania’s use of paperless voting systems, as well as its byzantine, anti-voter recount procedures.

The settlement requires Pennsylvania to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots to all voters by 2020, and automatic, robust, statewide election audits by 2022.

“With this settlement, Pennsylvania will go from an election integrity backwater to a national leader,” said Ilann M. Maazel. “We will be watching closely to ensure Pennsylvania implements every one of these important election reforms.”

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Ali Frick, and Doug Lieb, as well as co-counsel Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. In addition, Jonathan Abady and Andrew G. Celli Jr. represented the overall Stein 2016 recount effort.

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Rachel Maddow Interviews Professor Sarah Chayes About Donald Trump’s Violations of the Emoluments Clause

On October 18, 2017, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) presented oral argument in their landmark Emoluments Clause lawsuit against Donald Trump before Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York. Sarah P. Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on whose behalf ECBAWM filed an amicus curiae brief in support of CREW, was interviewed by Rachel Maddow on October 20, 2017. The interview featured Chayes’s analysis of the case and of oral argument and excerpts from ECBAWM’s brief.

“Is Trump Violating the Constitution? In Absentia, He Defends Himself in Court,” New York Times
“A Day in Court: Trump’s Emoluments Problem, His Challengers’ Standing Problem,” Washington Post
“Would $1 Million in Hot Dogs Violate the Emoluments Clause?,” Slate

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