May 14, 2021
Fish & Richardson Pro Bono Team and AALDEF Secure Federal Court Order to Allow Necessary Assistance for Texas Voters
A federal district judge has ruled that the state of Texas must discontinue the use of a new election law that illegally restricts necessary assistance to limited English-speaking and disabled voters at the polls. The order modifies a permanent injunction secured by Fish and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) in 2018 on behalf of OCA-Greater Houston (OCA-GH), which found that Texas had violated a voter's right to assistance from a person of their choice under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.
Fish Principal David Hoffman acted as pro bono counsel alongside AALDEF, on behalf of client OCA-GH, arguing that Texas' SB1 assistance law, passed in September 2021, used the same language the court previously enjoined in 2018. With this latest order, the state of Texas is prohibited from limiting voting assistance to just reading and marking the ballot. The court further ordered Texas to revise its training and instructional materials for state and county officials, and to notify all county elections departments of the SB1 provisions they can no longer enforce.
"All citizens of the United States deserve an equal opportunity to understand the voting process and to comprehend the ballot when casting their votes during an election," said Hoffman. "This order is an emphatic reminder to the state of Texas that a voter's right to assistance shall not be taken away, upholding a previous ruling we secured enforcing equal opportunity for all legal voters."
In addition to Hoffman, the Fish team included Principal Kenneth Darby and Associate Rose Sun. The AALDEF team, led by Susana Lorenzo-Giguere, included Jerry Vattamala and Patrick Stegemoeller. The case is OCA Greater Houston, et al. v. State of Texas, et al. in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division. The order can be found here.
Fish attorneys are dedicated to serving the communities in which they live and work, and pro bono work is an integral part of the firm's professional culture. In 2021, the firm made significant pro bono contributions with Fish attorneys completing over 18,000 hours of pro bono service for the year. Fish believes that the practice of law is a privilege that carries with it the responsibility to provide pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford to pay.
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