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Gooden v. Worley

The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief in support of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s lawsuit to compel the Secretary of State to register eligible Alabama voters.

Published: June 1, 2007

In Septem­ber 2005, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (“NAACP LDF”) filed Gooden v. Worley, a lawsuit that sought to compel the Secret­ary of State to register eligible Alabama voters.

Although Alabama’s disen­fran­chise­ment law disqual­i­fies only people convicted of felon­ies “involving moral turpitude,” the Alabama Secret­ary of State had instruc­ted voter regis­trars through­out the state to refuse to register any person with a felony convic­tion, includ­ing those whose convic­tions do not involve moral turpitude. On August 23, 2006, a state trial court agreed with the plaintiffs in the case, and said that since no work­able defin­i­tion of “moral turpitude” exis­ted, the state’s felony disen­fran­chise­ment law would be inact­ive until the legis­lature defined the term.

The defend­ants appealed the case to the Alabama Supreme Court, where the title of the case changed to Chap­man v. Gooden to reflect Alabama’s new Secret­ary of State. On Janu­ary 17, 2007, NAACP LDF and their co-coun­sel, Alabama lawyer Ed Still, filed a brief with the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court’s decision must be affirmed to ensure the voting rights of all Alabama citizens. The Bren­nan Center filed an Amicus Brief (Latin for “friend of the court” brief) in support of the plaintiffs. The brief was submit­ted on behalf of over 50 reli­gious lead­ers in Alabama. United in their belief that felony disen­fran­chise­ment offends basic Chris­tian prin­ciples, these lead­ers urged the Court to affirm the decision below.

On June 1, 2007, the state Supreme Court dismissed the case.  However, that decision did not repu­di­ate the basic legal prin­ciples that plaintiffs sought to protect through this lawsuit.  The court’s ruling was based largely on the fact that Alabama had already respon­ded to the litig­a­tion by ending its prac­tice of categor­ic­ally disqual­i­fy­ing all indi­vidu­als with felony convic­tions.

Bren­nan Center Brief

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