On December 7, 2023, a team of Proskauer attorneys joined the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), the ACLU of Delaware, and attorneys from Shaw Keller LLP in filing a complaint against the state of Delaware on behalf of the Prisoners Legal Advocacy Network (“PLAN”) to protect the Constitutional right to vote for incarcerated individuals.

Proskauer teams recently submitted amicus briefs in two critical voting rights cases, which are becoming increasingly important in the runup to the 2024 U.S. elections. On August 18, 2023, Proskauer submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of 30 historians and legal scholars specializing in the history of the Southern U.S. with a focus on South Carolina, race relations and election laws. The brief was submitted in support of appellees in Alexander v. The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. Then, on September 25, 2023, Proskauer filed— on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Foundation of Florida, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund— an amicus brief in the Third District Court of Appeal of Florida in support of the appellee in the case of State of Florida v. Miller.

2023 is neither a presidential nor mid-term election year but nevertheless there are extensive efforts underway across the country to combat a host of recent measures meant to restrict the right to vote. The Bloomberg and Proskauer communities recently came together at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York for a discussion highlighting those efforts, addressing the health of our democracy, and presenting a call to action for the hundreds who attended this lunchtime event.

Moderated by Bloomberg reporter Greg Farrell, the speakers included Casey Smith, an Equal Justice Works Fellow funded by Bloomberg and Proskauer who works for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, and Godfre Blackman, a Proskauer associate who recently served as the firm’s NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Fellow, which enabled him to work directly with the LDF on various voting rights issues.

            Proskauer recently represented the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College in submitting an amicus brief before the Supreme Court of North Carolina in a major voting rights lawsuit. The case, Community Success Initiative v. Moore, involves a challenge to N.C. Gen. Stat. §13-1, a felony supervision law that denies the franchise to over 56,000 North Carolinians. Under §13-1, individuals who have been convicted of felonies cannot register to vote unless they have been “unconditionally discharged” from felony probation, parole, or post-release supervision.

Bloomberg and Proskauer are sponsoring Equal Justice Works Fellow Casey Smith, who will work at the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project. Casey, a recent graduate of Yale Law School, will contribute to the defense of individuals unjustly prosecuted for voting. Casey also will help to develop impact litigation that challenges statutes imposing harsh penalties upon people who vote without realizing they are ineligible to do so.

In this interview, Casey discusses her important work.

Last spring, Proskauer launched a partnership with the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) – an organization focused on empowering Asian American, immigrant, and low-income communities in New York City. Continuing our partnership, we launched an “Advancing Social Justice Summer Teen Series,” where a select group of students took part in a six-week series where conversations addressed paths to law school and social justice issues.

A critical part of criminal justice reform is making it easier for those with criminal records to reenter society. This means greater job training, more employment opportunities, affordable housing, and stronger laws prohibiting discrimination and facilitating the expungement of old convictions.  Successful reentry into a free society, however, requires more than just the basic needs of life. It also requires the restoration of basic rights, and there is no more basic right in a democracy than the right to vote.

The idea that individuals with a felony conviction should be barred from voting for at least some period of time is widely accepted across the United States. But when you consider that current laws arose out of explicit racial animus following the Civil War and the end of slavery; when you look at the disproportionate effect the practice has had on people of color; and when you weigh the arguments in favor of disenfranchising millions of Americans – it becomes apparent that states should revisit this issue as part of broader criminal justice reform efforts and broader calls to address systemic racism.

Currently, over five million Americans who otherwise qualify to vote cannot do so as the result of a felony conviction.