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Alabama State Conference of NAACP v. City of Pleasant Grove

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 2, 2019

THE ALABAMA STATE CONFERENCE OF THE NAACP, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PLEASANT GROVE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          L. Scott Coogler, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiffs, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP (“the Alabama NAACP”), Eric Calhoun, and Jennifer Ford, bring this action against Defendants, City of Pleasant Grove (“Pleasant Grove”), Jerry Brasseale in his official capacity as Mayor of Pleasant Grove, and William Bullion, James Crumpton, Kenneth Hatfield, Phillip Houston, and Paula Johnson in their official capacities as Pleasant Grove City Council members (collectively “Defendants”). In their Complaint, Plaintiffs challenge the at-large method of electing members to Pleasant Grove's City Council.

         Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (doc. 14), Motion to Stay (doc. 16), and Motion to Strike (doc. 27). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (doc. 14) is due to be GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART. Defendants' Motion to Stay (doc. 16) and Motion to Strike (doc. 27) are due to be TERMINATED as MOOT.

         II. Background [1]

         Under Pleasant Grove's at-large election method, each of the five members of the Pleasant Grove City Council is elected from one of five numbered places. City Council members serve four-year, non-staggered terms, and candidates to the City Council must win by a majority vote. Although the 2010 Census indicates that 44.8% of Pleasant Grove's population is Black, no Black candidate has ever been elected to the Pleasant Grove City Council. In Pleasant Grove's most recent City Council elections, which took place in 2016, all four Black candidates for City Council lost to White candidates.

         Plaintiffs' Complaint has four causes of action for which Plaintiffs seek relief. Plaintiffs first allege that the at-large method of electing Pleasant Grove City Council members violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10301, under either a results-only or intentional vote dilution theory of liability. Plaintiffs also allege that Pleasant Grove's at-large election method violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, see U.S. Const., amends. XIV & XV, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, because it was purposefully adopted, or is being maintained, to dilute the strength of Black voters. Plaintiffs request a declaratory judgment and an injunction enjoining the Defendants from continuing to conduct elections using the current at-large method of electing City Council members. Additionally, Plaintiffs ask that this Court require Pleasant Grove to adopt single-member districts or another permissible method of electing City Council members.

         III. Standing

         As a threshold matter, the Court will address Defendants' argument that the Alabama NAACP does not having standing to bring this action. (See Doc. 15 at 41.)

         A. Standard

         To establish standing under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff must allege (1) that it has suffered an actual or imminent “injury in fact, ” (2) that there is a “causal connection” between that injury and the conduct complained of, and (3) that the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable decision. Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). “At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant's conduct may suffice.” Id. at 561.

         B. Discussion

         The Alabama NAACP has pled injuries sufficient to confer standing. An organizational plaintiff may establish standing in one of two ways. First, an organization's “diversion-of-resources” injury is sufficient to confer standing. See, e.g., Arcia v. Fla. Sec'y of State, 772 F.3d 1335, 1341 (11th Cir. 2014). Second, an organization may enjoy standing as the representative of its members “when its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right, the interests at stake are germane to the organization's purpose, and neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.” Id. (quoting Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 181 (2000)).

         The Alabama NAACP has sufficiently alleged that it has standing as a representative of its constituents. According to the Complaint, the Alabama NAACP's membership includes Black residents of Pleasant Grove whose voting strength is currently diluted. (Doc. 1 ¶ 8.) The Complaint further alleges that the Alabama NAACP's members include individuals who reside in areas of Pleasant Grove that could constitute a single-member district with a majority-Black voting-age population. (See id.) The Complaint goes on to state that “[t]he goals of the Alabama NAACP are to eliminate racial discrimination in the democratic process, and to enforce federal laws and constitutional provisions securing civil and voting rights.” (Id. ΒΆ 7.) Thus, the Alabama NAACP has sufficiently alleged that: (1) its members would have standing to sue in their own right; and (2) that the interests at stake are germane to its organizational purpose. Because the Court finds that this case does not require participation by ...


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