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Johnson v. Bredesen

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

October 28, 2010, Decided; October 28, 2010, Filed

File Name: 10a0335p.06

No. 08-6377


 [***2]   [*744]  COOK, Circuit Judge. Plaintiffs Terrence Johnson, Jim Harris, and Joshua Roberts 2—all Tennessee residents and convicted felons—filed a complaint alleging that, by conditioning restoration  [**2] of their voting rights on payment of court-ordered victim restitution and child support obligations, Tennessee's voter re-enfranchisement statute violates the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, and the Ex Post Facto and Privileges or Immunities Clauses of the United States [*745]  and Tennessee Constitutions. In a well-reasoned decision, the district court granted Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, and Plaintiffs appealed. Finding no error, we affirm.

All three plaintiffs reside in various Tennessee counties: Johnson in Shelby County,  [**3] Harris in Madison County, and Roberts in Davidson County. A jury convicted Johnson of wire fraud in 1999, and the court sentenced him to a term of imprisonment and ordered him to pay $40,000 in restitution. He completed his prison term, but remains unable to satisfy the restitution order. In addition, he owes a significant amount (more than $1,000) in overdue child support payments. Similarly, multiple felony convictions yielded prison sentences for Harris and Roberts, both of whom owed past-due child support obligations ($2,500 and $7,000, respectively) at the time they filed the complaint. Like Johnson, Harris and Roberts served their prison terms and are no longer on probation. Harris has since paid his overdue child support, and thus faces no  [***3]  impediment to applying for re-enfranchisement. He continues, however, to press a claim for nominal damages on account of any past constitutional harm.

] The State of Tennessee, like many others, disenfranchises convicted felons, but provides them with a statutory procedure for regaining the franchise upon completion of their sentences and satisfaction of certain conditions. The re-enfranchisement statute at issue, Tennessee Code § 40-29-202,  [**4] restores felons' eligibility "to apply for a voter registration card and have the right of suffrage restored" upon receipt of a pardon, discharge from custody after serving the maximum sentence imposed, or final discharge by the relevant county, state, or federal authority. The statute, however, carves out two exceptions to re-enfranchisement eligibility. It provides that:

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624 F.3d 742 *; 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 22357 **; 2010 FED App. 0335P (6th Cir.) ***

TERRENCE JOHNSON, JIM HARRIS, JOSHUA ROBERTS, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. PHIL BREDESEN, Governor of the State of Tennessee; BROOK THOMPSON, Coordinator of Elections; RILEY DARNELL, Secretary of State of Tennesee; RICHARD HOLDEN, Administrator of Elections for Shelby County; KIM BUCKLEY, Administrator of Elections for Madison County; RAY BARRETT, Administrator of Elections for Davidson County, in their official capacities, Defendants-Appellees.

Subsequent History: As Amended October 29, 2010.

Rehearing denied by, Rehearing, en banc, denied by Johnson v. Bredesen, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 26390 (6th Cir., Dec. 17, 2010)

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Johnson v. Haslam, 131 S. Ct. 2903, 179 L. Ed. 2d 1246, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 3835 (U.S., 2011)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 08-00187 -- Thomas A. Wiseman, Jr., District Judge.

Johnson v. Bredesen, 579 F. Supp. 2d 1044, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80932 (M.D. Tenn., 2008)


felons, disenfranchisement, poll tax, restitution, right to vote, sentence, restoration, provisions, re-enfranchisement, punitive, voting, instant case, Plaintiffs', suffrage, conditions, convicted, felony, cases, child-support, obligations, taxes, quotation, marks, rational basis, franchise, financial obligation, classification, collection, eligible, rational basis review

Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Voting, Evidence, Judicial Notice, Adjudicative Facts, Facts Generally Known, Verifiable Facts, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Judgments, Pretrial Judgments, Judgment on Pleadings, Constitutional Law, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Elections, Terms & Voting, General Overview, Poverty, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Restitution, Family Law, Support Obligations, Computation of Child Support, Guidelines, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Creation, Poll Taxes, Privileges & Immunities, Bills of Attainder & Ex Post Facto Clause, Ex Post Facto Clause, Application & Interpretation, Child Support, State Constitutional Operation