Fish & Richardson Pro Bono Team Helps Block Restrictive Texas Voting Law

Attorneys from the Austin, Texas, office of Fish & Richardson and lawyers from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) representing the Greater Houston Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) and Texas resident Mallika Das have won a federal court ruling overturning a restrictive provision of the Texas Election Code that prevented voters from having the interpreter of their choice assist them in the voting process.

Fish principal David M. Hoffman and firm associate Kenneth W. Darby, both of Austin, served as co-counsel along with Jerry Vattamala, director of AALDEF's Democracy Program.

The case was filed on behalf of Ms. Das in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in Austin last year on the 50th anniversary of the federal Voting Rights Act. A registered voter from Williamson County, Texas, with limited English proficiency, Ms. Das had brought her son to provide language assistance so that she could vote in the 2014 midterm elections when poll workers in the South Texas city of Round Rock intervened, telling her that the Texas Election Code prevented such assistance from those who were not registered to vote in the same county. Ms. Das was forced to vote alone as a result.

The legal team representing Ms. Das and OCA responded with a lawsuit against the State of Texas, the Williamson County Elections Department and the City of Round Rock for alleged violations of Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which allows interpreters for those who have limited proficiency in the language that is included on election ballots. Ms. Das' case continued after she passed away in June following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

After a little more than a year of litigation, Judge Robert Pittman signed an order on Aug. 12 granting a motion for summary judgment filed by Ms. Das' attorneys. The court's ruling took immediate effect and now protects the rights of all Texas voters with limited English proficiency.

"Fish & Richardson was honored to be able to help our clients and AALDEF with this important case," says Mr. Hoffman. "We hope that the decision will stand as a worthy memorial to Mallika, who all of us will always remember."

Fish is committed to making pro bono work an integral part of the firm's professional culture, encouraging all of its legal professionals to take on pro bono matters as a regular part of their professional lives.