FMR STATE REP GONZALEZ AND VOTERS FILE CIVIL RIGHTS SUIT AGAINST GOV KEMP FOR STOLEN DA ELECTION
ATLANTA and ATHENS, GA — Attorney Bruce P Brown has filed a lawsuit today on behalf of his clients, Deborah Gonzalez, April Boyer Brown, Linda Lloyd, Adam Shirley and Andrea Wellnitz against Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger for violation of their first amendment speech and association rights and voter rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983,and is requesting prospective injunctive relief, namely that an election for district attorney of the Western Judicial Circuit be held in November 2020.
Ken Mauldin, former Western Circuit District Attorney, which includes Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties, resigned effective February 28, 2020, triggering the Governor’s appointment powers for the seat. Due to a low-key change in legislation in 2018 (O.C.G.A. § 45-5-3.2(a), if the Governor makes the appointment within six months of a general election (in this scenario that would be May 3rd), the appointee does not have to face an election until the next general election which would be in 2022, leaving over 150,000 voters without any way to exercise their right to vote for this seat in 2020. The Governor did not make the appointment in time and triggered the 2018 law for the extended appointment period.
At the time of Mauldin’s resignation, there were two Democrats already campaigning for the seat, including Deborah Gonzalez, former state representative of HD117 (Athens). Gonzalez was running on a progressive platform of criminal justice reform and community engagement within the DA’s office.
Former State Rep Gonzalez and the other plaintiffs argue that the 2018 law is unconstitutional, should be enjoined, and that the Secretary of State conduct an election for District Attorney in November 2020.
EXCERPT FROM COMPLAINT INTRODUCTION & SUMMARY
“The right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1964). “Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964).
“Candidacy for office is one of the ultimate forms of political expression in our society.” Grizzle v. Kemp, 634 F.3d 1314, 1322 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Morial v. Judiciary Comm’n of Louisiana, 565 F.2d 295, 301 (5th Cir.1977)). “The exclusion of candidates also burdens voters’ freedom of association, because an election campaign is an effective platform for the expression of views on the issues of the day, and a candidate serves as a rallying-point for like-minded citizens.” Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780, 787 (1983).
“It is fundamentally unfair and constitutionally impermissible for public officials to disenfranchise voters in violation of state law so that they may fill the seats of government through the power of appointment. We therefore hold that such action violates the due process guarantees of the fourteenth amendment.” Duncan v. Poythress, 657 F.2d 691, 704 (5th Cir. 1981).
ABOUT ATTORNEY BRUCE BROWN
Bruce Brown has represented plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of difficult cases, including: Leading national media companies in First Amendment litigation; Citizens and governments in civil rights cases in state and federal court; and Numerous appeals in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. and Eleventh Circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Georgia Supreme Court, and the Georgia Court of Appeal.
Links to Complaint, Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and other related documentation can be accessed from the Justice Warriors PAC home page and scroll down.