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Riley v. Kennedy

Docket No. Op. Below Argument Opinion Vote Author Term
07-77 M.D. Ala. Mar 24, 2008 May 27, 2008 7-2 Ginsburg OT 2007

Disclosure: Akin Gump represented the respondents in this case.

Holding: (1) Because the district court did not render its final judgment until May 1, 2007, Governor Bob Riley's May 18 notice of appeal was timely. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, "any appeal" from the decision of a three-judge district court "shall lie to the Supreme Court," but the appeal must be filed within 60 days of a district court's entry of a final judgment. Yvonne Kennedy maintains that the district court's August 2006 order qualified as a final judgment, while the governor maintains that the district court's final judgment was the May 1 order vacating Juan Chastang's appointment to the Mobile County Commission. A final judgment "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." The August 2006 order declared that preclearance was required for the Stokes v. Noonan and Riley v. Kennedy decisions, but left unresolved Kennedy's demand for injunctive relief. An order resolving liability without addressing a plaintiff's requests for relief is not final. (2) For Section 5 purposes, the 1985 act never gained "force or effect." Therefore, Alabama's reinstatement of its prior practice of gubernatorial appointment did not rank as a "change" requiring preclearance.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 7-2, in an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on May 27, 2008. Justice Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Souter joined.

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