We’ve been involved as attorneys, parties, or consultants in several important election law and criminal justice cases including:
As part of our research and advocacy to end prison gerrymandering, we’ve been co-counsel and a party to litigation in an effort to protect our democracy from the prison industry.
With the ACLU Voting Rights Project, Dēmos, and Lynette Labinger of Roney & Labinger LLP, we represented four Cranston voters and the ACLU of Rhode Island to end prison gerrymandering in the City of Cranston.
The District Court ruled the city's prison gerrymandering unconstitutional, reasoning that the city could not count incarcerated people in city council districts as if they were city residents while not treating them as constituents when it came time to represent them, but the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision, allowing the City to continue using the Census' unadjusted redistricting data despite the prison miscount.
Case archive: Davidson v. Cranston (Rhode Island USDC Docket 1:14-cv-00091)
As consultants, we worked wiht the ACLU of Florida to end prison gerrymandering in Jefferson County. The court's decision was the first in the country to affirmatively declare that prison gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
The New York State Supreme Court Judge who rejected all of the plaintiffs claims repeatedly cited our arguments in his December 2011 decision. Plaintiffs abandoned their appeals in March 2012, allowing New York State’s landmark civil rights law to stand.
Case archive: Little v. Latfor (New York Docket No. 2310-2011)
We joined with other civil rights organizations to help defend Maryland’s law ending prison-based gerrymandering. In their decision upholding the law, the federal three-judge panel noted that the No Representation Without Population Act was an important Maryland civil rights victory: “As the amicus brief … makes clear, the Act was the product of years of work by groups dedicated to advancing the interests of minorities.”
The U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed the lower court’s ruling in June 2012.
Case archive: Fletcher v. Lamone (Maryland USDC, Greenbelt, No. 11-cv-03220)
The National Voting Rights Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative submitted a Brief Amici Curiae to urge the Second Circuit to consider the problem of prison gerrymandering when evaluating a Voting Rights Act challenge to prisoner disenfranchisement. Although the issue was later dropped on technical grounds on appeal, prison-based gerrymandering gathered much interest from the bench during oral argument. (US Court of Appeals, Second Circiut, No. 01-7260-cv)
We are building on our two cutting-edge reports exposing prison phone industry practices that lead to exorbitant costs of phone calls home from jails and prisons. While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is finally regulating the industry, the phone companies are challenging this progress.
We are among the organizations intervening in a lawsuit filed by the phone companies to undo the FCC's new regulations that limit the cost of calls home from prison and jail. We are represented by the Institute for Public Representation at the Georgetown University Law Center. (D.C. Cir. Docket No. 13-1280)
We used our mapping expertise to help the Southern Center for Human Rights, the ACLU and other law firms interested in defending civil rights and improving public safety by demonstrating a basic fact of geography and geometry: If you draw large exclusion zones around a large number of places, you will make an entire community off limits.
Peter Wagner served as an expert witness in a lawsuit challenging a city ordinance banning certain people on the sex offender registry from almost anywhere in the city of Englewood. We made a map of the city’s exclusion zones and calculated that, as Judge R. Brooke Jackson ruled, that the ordinance “leaves essentially no place for offenders to live” and pushes sex offenders into neighboring cities. The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of Colorado and Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. (Colorado USDC, No. 12-cv-02178)
Peter Wagner prepared an expert report/declaration analyzing a city ordinance prohibiting registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, finding that it made 95% of the residential properties in the city off-limits to people on the registry. The Superior Court declared the law in violation of the state constitution, a ruling that was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Judicial Court which "likened the restrictions to two dark chapters in American history: the forcible removal of Indian tribes in the 19th century and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II".
We submitted an affidavit in opposition to enforcement of a Revere, Mass city ordinance that would banish people classified as level 3 sex offenders from the city.
We used our mapping expertise to help the Southern Center for Human Rights challenge a new Georgia law that effectively banned people on the sex offender registry from living or working in most of the state. We prepared maps of 1,000 foot exclusion zones around schools, day-care centers, bus stops, parks and other areas listed in the statute as places that people on the sex offender registry cannot live in 8 counties and testified in federal court in 2006 and 2008. As a result of the suit, the legislature repealed parts of the law, and other parts are still stayed by the federal court. (Georgia USDC, Northern District, No. 4:06-140-CC)