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Yetter Coleman Secures Favorable Fifth Circuit Ruling For Client Challenging Boerne, Texas Charter Amendment That Impacted Voting Rights

The Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in Morton v. City of Boerne, Texas reversing a federal district court’s orders involving changes to Boerne, Texas city council elections that impacted the voting rights of our client, Mike Morton, a citizen of Boerne. In an effort to amend the Boerne city charter to change from at-large with cumulative voting to single-member district city council elections, the Boerne city council and LULAC asked the federal district court to reopen and modify the consent judgment in LULAC’s 1996 lawsuit that had put in place a cumulative voting system intended to make it easier for minority citizens to elect candidates in at-large elections. The federal court acceded and signed an order replacing at-large elections with single-member district elections. Following preclearance of the new election practice, Boerne implemented its single-member district election scheme and successfully moved the district court to dismiss the case. The city then conducted two elections using the contested election scheme.

On behalf of Mr. Morton we filed a consolidated appeal to the Fifth Circuit challenging the district court’s denial of the intervention motion that had been filed for Mr. Morton, and the modification of the consent decree requiring the establishment of single-member voting districts.

In an unanimous opinion, the Fifth Circuit held that Mr. Morton should have been allowed to intervene because, as a voter who had lost his right to vote for four of the five city council members, he had standing, and that the district court had abused its discretion in modifying the consent decree when the parties had made no showing that the modification was warranted. The Fifth Circuit remanded with instructions for the district court to grant Mr. Morton’s motion to intervene and conduct further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Chris Ward, Rich Farrer, Ryan Bates, and Kevin Terrazas represented Mr. Morton in this matter. For details on the Fifth Circuit decision, read here.