Professors Show Grounds to Restore Felon Voting Rights in Court Filing

A. E. Dick Howard, executive director of the commission that wrote Virginia's current constitution, and Daniel Ortiz, director of UVA Law's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, have joined forces with other law professors.

June 29, 2016

University of Virginia School of Law professor A. E. Dick Howard, principal architect of Virginia's current constitution, Professor Daniel Ortiz and other Virginia-based law professors have filed an amicus brief in Howell v. McAuliffe, a case that challenges the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons in the state.

William J. Howell, the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and several other petitioners are challenging, on constitutional grounds, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s order restoring the voting rights for those who have completed their sentence and parole or probation.  

The June 27 friend-of-the-court filing by the professors, in coordination with the law firm Hogan Lovells, argues that both the plain language of the state constitution and the historical record support the governor's right to "remove political disability by group."

Article II, Section 1 of the constitution allows the governor to restore the rights, the brief states, with Article V, Section 12 giving the governor absolute power to remove political disabilities, except where constitutional language expressly prohibits. (Read the full amicus.)

Howard, who advised the governor before his rights-restoration announcement on April 22, and Ortiz, director of the UVA Law Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, are joined by two professors from the University of Richmond School of Law, Carl W. Tobias and John Paul Jones, emeritus.

"The other professors and I argue that there is solid ground in the constitution of Virginia for the governor’s order," Howard said.

Widely acknowledged as an expert in the fields of constitutional law, comparative constitutionalism and the Supreme Court, Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. He was executive director of the commission that wrote Virginia's current constitution and directed the successful referendum campaign for its ratification.

The professors' amicus was facilitated by the pro bono efforts of Hogan Lovells partner Tom Connally, a 1993 graduate of UVA Law.

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