United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
ROY HARNESS, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
DELBERT HOSEMANN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT DENNIS HOPKINS, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
DELBERT HOSEMANN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANT
P. Jordan III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
consolidated action to restore the voting rights of convicted
felons is before the Court on the Hopkins Plaintiffs'
motion for class certification under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 23 . Defendant Secretary of State Delbert
Hosemann acknowledges that Plaintiffs meet all of Rule
23's stated requirements but argues that certification is
unnecessary and therefore opposes it. Because Plaintiffs
satisfy the plain text of Rule 23, the Court finds that the
motion for class certification should be granted but the
description of the class should be modified.
Facts and Procedural History The Hopkins Plaintiffs seek
class certification to challenge two sections of the
Mississippi Constitution--sections 241 and 253. Under section
241, individuals who have been “convicted of murder,
rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under
false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement[, ] or
bigamy” are ineligible to vote. And section 253 allows
the legislature to restore an individual's suffrage by
“a two-thirds vote of both houses, of all members
say the lifetime voting ban violates the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment
and the Fourteenth Amendment, which only permits states to
temporarily “abridge” an individual's right
to vote based on participation in a crime. Compl.  (filed
in 3:18-CV-188-DPJ-FKB) at 4-5. They also contend that the
mechanism to restore voting rights violates the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the First
Amendment. Id. at 5.
relief, Plaintiffs generally seek (1) class-wide declarations
that sections 241 and 253 are unconstitutional; (2)
class-wide injunctions effectuating those declarations; (3)
an order requiring the Secretary of State to provide notice
to all class members and otherwise educate the public
regarding the restored rights; and (4) reasonable costs and
attorney's fees. Id. at 43-45.
present motion, Plaintiffs seek to certify a class they now
define as including:
Any person who (a) is or becomes disenfranchised under
Mississippi state law by reason of a conviction of a crime
that the Secretary of State contends is disenfranchising
under Section 241 of the Mississippi Constitution, Miss. Code
§ 23-15-11 and/or Miss. Code § 23-15-19, and (b)
has completed the term of incarceration, supervised release,
parole and/or probation for each such conviction.
Pls.' Mem.  at 11.
certification is a two-step process. First, Rule 23 provides
four prerequisites to class certification: (1) numerosity;
(2) commonality; (3) typicality; and (4) adequacy of
representation. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a); see Ibe v.
Jones, 836 F.3d 516, 528 (5th Cir. 2016). Although
Hosemann says Plaintiffs' claims are substantively
meritless, he agrees Plaintiffs have satisfied these four
“[a] class action may be maintained” if
“the party opposing the class has acted or refused to
act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that
final injunctive relief or corresponding declaratory relief
is appropriate respecting the class as a whole.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2). Again, Hosemann preserves his
merits-based opposition to Plaintiffs' claims but
acknowledges that they “dovetail with Rule
23(b)(2)'s expressed requirements.” Def.'s Mem.
 at 8.
there is effectively no dispute Plaintiffs' motion
satisfies all technical requirements for class certification
under Rule 23. Nevertheless, Hosemann asks the Court to deny
class certification because it is unnecessary. Alternatively,
Hosemann urges the Court to re-define the class if it is
certified. The balance of this Order will separately examine
the suggested necessity requirement and the class definition.
reasons that because success on Plaintiffs'
constitutional claims “will simultaneously
benefit” the proposed class, class certification
“lacks utility” and should be denied. Def.'s
Mem.  at 8. His ...