Category Archives: election law biz

Very Sad News: Gerry Hebert Has Passed Away

Leading voting rights litigator and champion, and overall mensch, Gerry Hebert has passed away. (I had mentioned on this blog his illness last May and was glad to have had a chance to talk to him and learn how much he appreciated hearing from everyone during his illness.)

Here’s the Campaign Legal Center notice, where Gerry worked after a career that included both the DOJ and his work as a private attorney as “the Bailout King”):

Today, the democracy community lost one of its greatest leaders, J. Gerald (Gerry) Hebert, a fierce defender of voting rights and a titan of election law. Our thoughts today are with Gerry’s wife, Victoria, his children and grandchildren, and the many friends and colleagues who adored him.  

Gerry served as the executive director of CLC from 2004-2018, retiring from the organization in 2021. Under his leadership, CLC expanded its litigation practice and grew its staff and resources to increase the organization’s ability to advocate on behalf of voters.  

Gerry was deeply committed to mentoring young lawyers. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, he built a robust intern program at CLC that continues today. In 2015, Gerry also led CLC in creating the Voting Rights Institute (VRI), a partnership with the American Constitution Society and Georgetown Law. The institute provides opportunities for law students and graduates to learn how to litigate voting rights cases.  

Gerry Hebert speaking with the Capitol Building in the background

Gerry Hebert speaking in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 24, 2009.

Gerry’s arrival at CLC in 2004 was preceded by an illustrious career at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), where he served as Acting Chief, Deputy Chief, and Special Litigation Counsel in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division. While at the DOJ, Gerry served as the lead attorney in numerous voting rights and redistricting lawsuits, including several cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.  

CLC is profoundly grateful to Gerry for his service to American democracy, to voters, and to CLC and its mission. His legacy will continue to live on through the many students and colleagues he has trained to fight on behalf of voters.  

CLC staff will remember Gerry fondly for his wonderfully unique sense of humor and wit, his enthusiasm for life, his love of the law, his taste in wine, his ability to tell a great story, his musical talent, his dedication to his family, and his lifelong commitment to justice and equality.   

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“Scoop: Why Biden’s team soured on Dems’ election lawyer”


The big picture: The split between Biden’s team and Elias — who had represented the DNC since 2009 — reflects a larger fight within the party on the best legal approach to expand and protect voting rules.

  • Elias argues Democrats should be fighting on every possible front — filing a flurry of lawsuits and exerting public pressure through the media.
  • Biden’s team, long guided by lawyer Bob Bauer, is concerned that while Elias’ approach may be emotionally satisfying and make for good headlines, it can backfire with the current conservative makeup of the judiciary.
  • The president’s team wants to be more selective in picking legal fights, especially going into a 2024 election that could be especially litigious.

The intrigue: Beyond the philosophical disagreements, Biden’s team became fed up with Elias during the first two years of the administration.

  • Elias often did not consult the DNC or the White House before filing lawsuits affecting voting rights and election laws in key states and at times disregarded their concerns with cases, Democrats familiar with the internal deliberations said.
  • Biden officials found out Elias had filed some lawsuits only when he announced them — often on MSNBC or Twitter….
  • Zoom in: Bauer and Elias faced off last year during the negotiations on strengthening the Electoral Count Act, the law that Donald Trump tried to get Mike Pence to exploit on Jan. 6, 2021.
  • Bauer had helped craft the bipartisan bill behind the scenes.
  • Elias was openly critical of the proposed bill, writing: “Lacking precision in critical areas, the bill feels less like the product of legislative compromise and more like something constructed in a law school faculty lounge.”
  • Many people involved in the negotiations felt that Elias’ tactics were more grandstanding than constructive.
  • His public critiques frustrated some senators who co-sponsored the bill — including Mark Warner (D-Va.) — given that Elias also serves as their campaign lawyer. Warner’s office declined to comment.
  • “Thank god we got that through, no thanks to Marc,” a Democrat involved in the negotiations told Axios.
  • “Bob Bauer was a constructive and insightful sounding board for the senators as they developed the proposals, while Marc Elias’ contribution was serving as a Twitter troll who tried to undermine the effort at every turn,” said one Senate aide.
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Now Available: Jacob Eisler’s “The Law of Freedom: The Supreme Court and Democracy”

Jacob Eisler’s new book is out today. Here’s the description:

The Supreme Court has been at the center of great upheavals in American democracy across the last seventy years. From the end of Jim Crow to the rise of wealth-dominated national campaigns, the Court has battled over if democracy is an egalitarian collaboration to serve the good of all citizens, or a competitive struggle by private interests. In The Law of Freedom, Jacob Eisler questions why the Court has the moral authority to shape democracy at all. Analyzing leading cases through the lens of philosophy and social science, Eisler demonstrates how the soul of election law is a battle between two philosophical understandings of democratic freedom and popular self-rule. This remarkable book reveals that the Court’s battle over democracy has shaped how Americans rule themselves, marking election law as the most dramatic judicial intervention in constitutional history.

You can find the book’s full introduction on SSRN. Review copies may be requested here.

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Election Law Academics Update

Here’s my yearly roundup of election law academic hires, promotions moves, visits, accolades:

Wilfred Codrington was promoted to associate professor of law at Brooklyn and awarded the additional title of Dean’s Research Scholar. He will be visiting at Texas A&M Univ. School of Law in the spring. 

Joshua Douglas will be visiting at St. Louis University.

Justin Levitt has returned to LMU Loyola Law School from serving as the White House’s inaugural Senior Policy Advisor for Democracy and Voting Rights.

Thessalia Merivaki will be Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Mississippi State University. (August 15)

Gene Mazo will be joining the faculty of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Duquesne University August 1, as Associate Professor of Law and Political Science, with a joint appointment in the law school and political science department. (August 1)

Michael Morse began as assistant Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law.

Derek Muller joined Notre Dame Law School as a Professor of Law.

Mike Parsons will be teaching an election law course at William & Mary Law School for Fall 2023 while continuing his private practice at Parsons Law PLLC.

Michael Pitts was recently awarded an endowed professorship, the Cleon H. Foust Professor of Law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Chris Seaman was named the Robert E.R. Huntley Professor of Law at Washington and Lee.

Joshua Sellers joined University of Texas Law.

Franita Tolson is now Interim Dean at USC Law.

Sam Wang is now the founding director of the Electoral Innovation Lab, a newly independent organization. The Lab’s mission is to build a practical science of democracy reform. Prof. Wang will continue his research and teaching at Princeton.

Congratulations all!

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Sending Healing Thoughts and Strength to Gerry Hebert

Our friend Gerry Hebert, with a long and distinguished career in voting rights at the Department of Justice and at the Campaign Legal Center (not to mention his role as “Bailout King“), is ill with brain cancer. Jerry is a very fine lawyer and teacher, and an even finer human being. I wish him a full and speedy recovery so that he can get back to mentoring the next generation of voting rights lawyers.

I learned of Gerry’s illness when I spoke to him yesterday, and he told me how much he appreciates all of the words of encouragement that have been sent his way during his treatment. You can learn more about Gerry’s progress and condition by reading his latest Caring Bridge entry.

We wish you all the best Gerry!

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“Michael Berman, Democratic strategist and force in California politics, dies”


Michael Berman, who shaped California politics for generations as the mastermind of Los Angeles’ vaunted “Berman-Waxman Political Machine,” died Friday. He was 75.

Berman burst onto the political scene before he was old enough to vote, running Henry Waxman’s first campaign for the state Legislature in 1968 and helping to unseat Democrat Lester A. McMillan, who had represented the Westside for 26 years. But it wasn’t his age or the long-shot win that earned Berman notice, it was his new approach: devising a plan with UCLA sociologist Howard Elinson to harness demographic data to target where campaign mailers should be sent for maximum impact.

Those micro-targeted mailers forever changed how races are won in California and remain standard political operating procedure. Berman used the same approach to carry his brother, Howard Berman, to the Legislature in 1972 over another longtime incumbent. While Michael Berman remained behind the scenes, his methods propelled Howard Berman and Waxman to the top of the political firmament — and kept them there for decades.

The Waxman-Berman Machine, as the trio would begrudgingly be known, became a powerful force that helped elect a network of allies who wielded enormous influence in Sacramento and Washington….

In the 1970s and 1980s, Michael Berman was the go-to expert in redistricting, the once-a-decade process of creating new political maps after each census. He was instrumental in mapping congressional districts that helped Democrats expand their majority. Those methods were not without controversy: Critics said Berman’s strategies manipulated political levers to create safe congressional districts for allies at the cost of fair representation for constituents.

Friends said Berman was a brilliant and blunt Democratic consultant who helped make generations of political careers in the state.

Condolences to his family and friends.

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Two important discussions on Wednesday next week

On May 10, Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs is hosting The Profession of Democracy: Election Administration and State Associations.

Elections administrators, the people who referee our democracy, are literally and figuratively under threat. Long hours, harassment, malicious open records requests, hyper partisanship – these and other factors are driving people out of elections administration. How do we attract and retain people willing to make a career of elections administration while meeting the training and collegial demands of a more professionalized workforce? The Certificate in Election Administration’s spring conference will explore the state of election administration professionalism, the role state associations play in the development of a vibrant, resilient field, and national and state-specific training programs that can help drive the profession forward.

Same time, different channel: also on May 10, the Bipartisan Policy Center and National Capital Area Political Science Association host Trust Issues: Examining Declining Confidence in Political Institutions.

Trust is a keystone of institutions, but that keystone is increasingly weak. Across nearly all institutions—government, business, media, religion—trust is at an all-time low, with no shortage of polls showing the continuing decline.

According to Pew Research Center, only 21% of Americans recently said they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” or “most of the time.” Can these trends be reversed or are our democratic institutions stuck cursing the storm?

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Arizona Supreme Court sanctions Kari Lake’s attorneys

Hot off the press: an order by the Arizona Supreme Court sanctioning Kari Lake’s attorneys for false factual statements to the court.

I believe this is at least the second sanctions order issued against Kurt Olsen related to false statements in Lake’s litigation over the 2022 election, after this scathing order from Arizona’s federal court.

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