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Jones v. Governor of Fla.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

February 19, 2020, Decided

No. 19-14551

Opinion

 [*800]  PER CURIAM:

On November 6, 2018, Florida voters approved Amendment 4, a state constitutional amendment that automatically restored voting rights to ex-felons who had completed all of the terms of their sentences. Contemporary media reports suggested that as many as 1.4 million felons could be eligible for re-enfranchisement under the law. Accounts [**4]  differed as to whether this figure made Amendment 4 the single largest act of enfranchisement since the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, or the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in 1971. By any measure, Amendment 4's enfranchisement was historic.

Amendment 4 provided that a felon's "voting rights shall be restored upon completion of all terms of sentence including parole or probation." Following its passage, the Florida legislature passed Senate Bill 7066, which implemented the Amendment and interpreted its language to require payment of all fines, fees and restitution imposed as part of the sentence (collectively, "legal financial obligations" or "LFOs"). The Florida Supreme Court later agreed with the legislature's interpretation of the Amendment—during the pendency of this appeal, it held that the plain text of Amendment 4 requires payment of all LFOs as a precondition of re-enfranchisement.

Following the passage of SB 7066, the seventeen plaintiffs in this case brought suit, challenging the constitutionality of the LFO requirement. Each plaintiff is a felon who has alleged that he or she would be eligible for re-enfranchisement under Amendment 4 but for non-payment of outstanding LFOs. Each plaintiff has also alleged that he or she is indigent and, therefore, [**5]  genuinely unable to pay those obligations.

The cases were consolidated in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, which then issued a preliminary injunction requiring the State to allow the named plaintiffs to register and vote if they are able to show that they are genuinely unable to pay their LFOs and would otherwise be eligible to vote under Amendment 4. From this order the State timely appealed to this Court.

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950 F.3d 795 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 5022 **; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 853; 2020 WL 829347

KELVIN LEON JONES, BONNIE RAYSOR, et al., Plaintiffs—Appellees, versus GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE, Defendants—Appellants.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 4:19-cv-00300-RH-MJF.

Jones v. DeSantis, 410 F. Supp. 3d 1284, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 180624 (N.D. Fla., Oct. 18, 2019)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

felons, wealth, disenfranchisement, unable to pay, preliminary injunction, heightened scrutiny, genuinely, district court, re-enfranchisement, classification, franchise, rational basis review, fines, voters, sentence, voting, right to vote, election, indigent, financial obligation, injunction, probation, rational basis, fundamental rights, inability to pay, outstanding, restitution, collection, irrational, eligible

Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Restoration of Rights, Constitutional Law, Elections, Terms & Voting, Voting, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Interlocutory Orders, Remedies, Injunctions, Preliminary & Temporary Injunctions, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Standing, Grounds for Injunctions, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, De Novo Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Standards of Review, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Judicial Review, Poverty, Voting Rights, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Fines, National Origin & Race, Judgments, Enforcement & Execution, Grounds for Injunctions, Irreparable Harm, Public Interest, Governments, Legislation, Severability