Cleary Gottlieb Lawyers Defend Rights of African-American Voters

February 13, 2017

Cleary Gottlieb, in partnership with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a local law firm, has filed a pro bono lawsuit to challenge an election system that dilutes the voting strength of African-American voters in Jones County, North Carolina.

The county’s system of elections, which elects members of the Board of Commissioners “at large” on a county-wide basis, provides an unequal advantage to white voters voting as a bloc. This has resulted in the suppression of votes cast by African-American residents and the systemic neglect of their needs and concerns. African-American residents make up a third of the county’s population and consistently support African-American candidates for the County Board of Commissioners, yet an African-American candidate has not been elected to the five-member Board of Commissioners in over two decades.

The lawsuit seeks to change the current system to one of single-member voting districts that allow all residents an equal opportunity to elect commissioners who represent their needs.

Patterson Harkavy LLP, based in Chapel Hill, is serving as local counsel.

The case has been hailed as the “first major voting rights lawsuit of the year” and was featured in articles in USA Today, The News & Observer,, The Litigation Daily and The Courier Journal.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.