Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Judicial panel urges sides in felon voting rights suit to settle

The Birmingham News

A panel of three judges presiding over a lawsuit involving whether some felons have a right to vote encouraged both sides in the case Tuesday to try to settle the issue.

The suit, filed in December by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, contends that Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley and some county registrars are violating Alabama’s constitution by requiring all felons to apply to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to have voting rights restored. The NAACP argues the state constitution provides that people convicted of certain felonies such as DUI and drug possession that do not involve moral turpitude — unlike rape, robbery or murder — do not lose their voting rights and do not need to apply for an eligibility certificate from the board.

Charles Wilson, a visiting judge with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asked if there have been negotiations to end the case without going to trial.

“It looks like a case where settlement ought to be possible,” Wilson said during a pre-trial conference in Birmingham’s federal court with William Acker Jr. and Lynwood Smith Jr., both district court federal judges.

But plaintiffs lawyers said past settlement talks with lawyers for the defendants, which include Worley and voter registrars in Jefferson and Houston counties, already have been unsuccessful.

“It’s not been fruitful,” Edward Still, a Birmingham lawyer handling the suit locally.

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