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Brooks v. Gant: Plaintiffs Really Prevailed; GOP Voter Intimidation Fails

Not paying lawyer bills for Republicans who fail to carry out promises: the plaintiffs in Brooks v. Gant! I'm surprised and sorry I missed this one, but an eager reader notes that last month, Judge Karen Schreier rejected the effort of lawyer Sara Frankenstein to make Oglala Sioux plaintiffs pay for suing the state and county governments to protect their voting rights. Frankenstein's quest for legal fees was a blatant attempt to intimidate Indian voters from trying to use the courts to assert their rights, not to mention rewrite the obvious fact that the Oglala Sioux plaintiffs, not the Secretary of State or local governments who had to be sued before they would provide an early-voting polling station on the Pine Ridge Reservation, prevailed in the lawsuit. Judge Karen Schreier made it clear in her September ruling on the legal fee request that the state lost and the Indians won:

Greg Lembrich, a New York City attorney and legal director of Four Directions, a Native voting-rights organization that supported the lawsuit, saw a measure of impatience in the judge’s opinion. “The request for costs bordered on the legally frivolous. The prevailing party in a federal suit can go after the other side for costs, but this case ended when the defendants saw the handwriting on the wall and gave up. As Judge Schreier wrote, ‘In effect, the plaintiffs received all the relief they requested.’ You can’t both surrender and declare victory” [Stephanie Woodard, "Judge Rules in Favor of Oglala Voting-Rights Plaintiffs," Indian Country Media, 2013.09.25].


Schreier this week rejected the request, saying it was the defendants’ fault the lawsuit was ever filed. “Under the facts of this case,” she wrote, “it would be unjust to require plaintiffs to pay defendants’ costs. Defendants refused to provide plaintiffs with the relief they requested until this lawsuit was filed.” “The action,” she continued, “was brought by individual plaintiffs, all of whom are persons without great means, to vindicate the voting right of all Native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Defendants on the other hand, who are being represented by the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, have the wherewithal to afford to pay their share of the costs associated with this litigation. Had defendants voluntarily agreed to provide the relief requested by plaintiffs when approached before the litigation was filed, they could have avoided the costs they are now seeking” [Jonathan Ellis, "Ruling Sides with Native Group over Costs of Voting-Rights Lawsuit," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.09.21].

Secretary of State Jason Gant was wrong to resist supporting voting rights on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He and the counties were wrong to force their constituents to turn to the courts for relief. And they were wrong to try making those citizens pay for the protection of their Constitutional rights.


  1. Rick 2013.10.23

    Waiting for corrections and apologies from the right winged jerks who claimed victory in their blogs on this case. Gee, they seemed so sure of themselves when they were protecting the voter suppression tactics of the SoS and the state while condemning Native people for defending their American right to vote.

  2. Michael B 2013.10.23

    Question for you Cory: will any of this litigation change voting stations in future elections on the reservation?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.10.23

    Good question, Michael. The state got the lawsuit dismissed by promising to maintain the Pine Ridge early-voting station through 2018. My very amateur read would be the state likely capitulated because they figured it was likely a judge would rule against them, since they acted and the judge dismissed, we didn't actually get that precedent.

    Plus, even with their failure on Brooks v. Gant, the state is still resisting the early-voting satellite stations in Fort Thompson, Wanblee, and Eagle Butte, which we talked about in August. Those centers are different from the Pine Ridge station: Shannon County didn't have anyplace to early-vote; Buffalo, Jackson, and Dewey counties have early voting at their courthouses, but they're boo-ya far from lots of Indian residents. So that's a different legal question: can the state spend HAVA money to provide not just one place but multiple places to vote?

  4. Roger Elgersma 2013.10.23

    The same Republicans who want the Natives to just pull themself up by their bootstraps and get over it do not want them to vote. No matter how much the Tea party wants to cut government, it is still governments job to provide voting places. You can not start a voting place on your own initiative to prove that you are grown up and can make it on your own. This was blatant modernday prejudice.

  5. Michael B 2013.10.23

    What makes me scratch my head is why we need to take federal grant money for early voting in the first place. Getting people to vote and allowing reasonable access is the right thing to do.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.23

    Michael B.

    You are absolutely correct! The next question are:

    Why does the SoS and the Republican Party want to continue to suppress the Native American vote?

    Why is it so difficult for the SoS and the Republican Party to simply do the right thing?

  7. grudznick 2013.10.23

    I am sure that Mr. Gant is completely in favor of everybody voting. If he wasn't why would he do a job that puts him up for so much criticizing? We all probably underestimate how much he cares about being a servant.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2013.10.23


    I cannot "detect" anything from Gant that shows that he is completely in favor of everybody voting.
    If Gants were actually doing his job, he would be working diligently to make polling places available to all. He is not doing that. the record is clear.
    I have no sympathy for those that political position or elective office, they are all subject to criticism, as they should be.

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