Orrick Pro Bono Team Wins Summary Judgment in NY Voter Intimidation Case

1 minute read | March.09.2023

Siding with the arguments of an Orrick pro bono team, a federal judge in New York today granted summary judgment on all grounds in a case challenging a robocall campaign targeting black voters during the 2020 presidential election. Orrick, partnering with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (“NCBCP”), represents the eight individual plaintiffs in the case along with the co-plaintiff, the New York State Office of the Attorney General.

In addition to granting summary judgment as to liability to the plaintiffs, the court denied the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment. The court found that the defendants created and disseminated a robocall that targeted black voters, warning them not to vote by mail in the 2020 presidential election with the intent of discouraging voter participation amid the pandemic.

The Court found that the robocall “was intimidating, threatening, or coercive towards voters, especially Black voters, by warning of several specific and foreboding consequences of voting by mail.”  Importantly, the Court found that the robocall did not constitute protected speech: “The only reasonable interpretation of these statements is that they were designed to instill fear of voting by mail in potential voters, portending adverse consequences in order to induce a chilling effect so as to deter mail-in voting, or perhaps voting entirely,” the judge wrote in National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, et al. v. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, SDNY 20-Civ.-8668 (Marrero).

The Orrick team includes partners Franklin Monsour and Amy Walsh, associate Brittany Roehrs and Pro Bono Counsel Rene Kathawala. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also collaborated on the case.