Fifth Circuit Panel to Hear Texas Voter ID Case Includes Two Democrat Appointees

Midterm Elections Texas Voting Rights
LM Otero/AP

A challenge to Texas voter identification law will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday. A three judge panel that includes two Democratic appointees will hear the case. One of the judges is a federal district court judge from the Eastern District of Texas who is sitting by designation.

The case is Marc Veasey, et al., Texas Association of Hispanic County Judges and County Commissioners v. Greg Abbott et al. (cause no. 14-41127). Breitbart Texas reported that on October 11, 2014, U. S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, a President Obama appointee, issued a permanent injunction requiring Texas to return to enforcing the in-person voter identification requirements that existed before Senate Bill 14 became law. The timing of the Order created uncertainty for election officials in Texas. Early voting started on October 20th.

Judge Ramos, who serves in the Corpus Christi Division of the U.S. District Courts for the Southern Division of Texas, issued a 147 page opinion and held that the law “constituted an unconstitutional poll tax.” She also opined that “SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas, then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed to the Fifth Circuit and obtained a stay on Ramos’ Order which allowed the law to be used for the November general election. The Court’s stay was on the grounds that the election was imminent. It did not rule on the merits. The Order of the Fifth Circuit stated:

Here, the district court’s alterations to the Texas voting laws were made on October 11, 2014, even though the challenged laws became effective on January 1, 2012 and had already been used in at least three previous elections. We must consider this injunction in light of the Supreme Court’s hesitancy to allow such eleventh-hour judicial changes to election laws. Particularly in light of the importance of maintaining the status quo on the eve of an election, we find that the traditional factors for granting a stay favor granting one here.

Breitbart Texas reported that an appeal was taken to the United States Supreme Court where the divided Court denied the applications to vacate the stay. Three U.S. Supreme Court justices dissented from the ruling – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion, with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joining.

The three judges on the Fifth Circuit panel for Tuesday include two Democratic appointees. Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and District Court Judge Nannette Brown was appointed by President Barack Obama. Judge Catarina Haynes was appointed by President George W. Bush. Judge Brown is a federal district court judge from the Eastern District of Louisiana who is sitting by designation.

Attorneys on both sides will have 20 minutes each to argue the case before the three-judge panel. It is customary for the judges to stop lawyers during oral argument to ask them questions. The Fifth Circuit panel will issue an opinion, and then that decision could be appealed to the Fifth Circuit en banc wherein all the judges could decide to hear the case. The next level of appeal would be to the United States Supreme Court.

Scott A. Keller, Texas Solicitor General, will argue for the State of Texas. Erin H. Flynn will argue for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Chad W. Dunn will argue for the League of United Latin American Citizens and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth).

Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) briefs have been filed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Martin J. Siegel has also filed a friend of the court brief for current and former administrators of elections including Mark White who served as Secretary of State in Texas from 1973-77, Dana DeBeauvoir, County Clerk of Travis County, Texas (Austin area), and Oscar Villarreal, Elections Administrator for Webb County, Texas (Laredo area), and Carolyn Guidry, County Clerk for Jefferson County, Texas (Beaumont area). White later served as Attorney General and Governor of Texas.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2


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