Fenwick Secures Preliminary Injunction in Federal Voting Rights Case in Georgia

Fenwick and its pro bono partner organizations secured a preliminary injunction in a high-profile impact litigation case on August 18, 2023. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, issued the injunction to block, for future elections, a portion of Georgia’s voter restriction law that disenfranchised Black voters based on immaterial errors when returning absentee ballots. The injunction requires Georgia counties to count what are likely thousands of absentee ballots from qualified voters that would otherwise have been rejected.

Since 2022, Fenwick has partnered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to represent advocacy groups in Georgia to challenge voter restrictions in Georgia’s Senate Bill 202. In May 2023, Fenwick led the filing of a motion for a preliminary injunction asserting that the prohibition on counting absentee ballots that did not include a correct birthdate violated the Civil Rights Act. Fenwick’s clients also joined in a motion to overturn SB 202’s prohibition on offering food and water to voters waiting in line beyond 150 feet from the polling place.

On August 18, the district court granted both preliminary injunctions. The court held the birthdate requirement violated the “Materiality Provision” of the Civil Rights Act—which was enacted to “counteract state and local government tactics of using, among other things, burdensome registration requirements to disenfranchise African Americans.”

“This has been a huge team effort,” said co-lead counsel and Fenwick partner Laurence Pulgram. “For me, I’m from a long time Atlanta family and grew up there in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement. I lived and learned from that struggle. The court’s ruling vindicates the longstanding principle that disenfranchising qualified voters by erecting unnecessary requirements violates civil rights and won’t be tolerated.”

Injunctive relief is also currently pending for several other provisions challenged.

Fenwick and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are pursuing the federal lawsuit on behalf of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Common Cause, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund, League of Women Voters of Georgia, and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, The Law Office of Bryan Sells, and Law Offices of Gerry Weber are also pro bono counsel.

The Fenwick team includes partners Laurence Pulgram and Molly Melcher, pro bono attorney Catherine McCord, associates Armen Nercessian, Ethan Thomas, Dargaye Churnet and Giulia Rubin, and counsel Joseph Belichick.

Read LCCR’s press release here.

Read the Materiality Injunction order here.

About Fenwick’s Pro Bono Practice

Fenwick’s pro bono program is dedicated to ensuring that disadvantaged people and communities have representation and access to justice. The firm’s ongoing Voting Rights Initiative aims to engage our Fenwick community in the electoral process through impact litigation, volunteerism and voting. Fenwick is proud of the efforts made by our firm community toward defending voting rights and promoting voter turnout through pro bono and community service activities.