By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford and other plaintiffs filed a response to the motion for sanctions in the lawsuit against Strange and Governor Robert Bentley. The lawsuit is in response to alleged voting rights violations when Strange and State Troopers closed down VictoryLand, costing the city millions of dollars and over 2,000 jobs.
Strange filed a rule eleven motion for sanctions, which prevents filing unnecessary or frivolous pleadings or motions. With the exception of certain circumstances, a law firm must be held jointly responsible for a violation committed by its partner, associate, or employee.
“This is just another attempt by the defendants to avoid dealing with the true issue in this matter, and that is how they have systematically and unlawfully nullified the voting rights of the people of Macon County,” said Donald LaRoche, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
“Their motion for sanctions is only designed to further chill and intimidate the plaintiffs from exercising their right to petition the court and seek redress for their grievances,” LaRoche said.
Ford said that they were pre-cleared by the US Justice Department under section five of the Voting Rights Act when the people of Macon County voted for a state constitutional amendment.
According to Ford, Strange “usurped the authority of Macon County Sheriff David Warren” when he closed VictoryLand.
That action was in direct violation fo the Voting Rights Act and the voting rights of the people of Macon County, Ford said.
“The plaintiffs who had a contract with VictoryLand, pursuant to Constitutional Amendment No. 744, were deprived of their property interests because Defendant Strange conducted a raid and seized the machines,” the plaintiffs response states.
The response continues to say that, as a result of Strange’s raid, “some 2000 people in Macon County were left unemployed and the charities which were in a lawful association with VictoryLand were deprived of desperately needed funding,” the plaintiffs’ response states.
Strange has said that the raid at Victoryland was “routine” and legal under Alabama law.
“We enforce the law consistently across the state,” Strange said. “VictoryLand, as the Supreme Court has said, is operating illegal machines, but we had no choice to take the action we did, and treat them the same way we do everyone else…all over the state where we had this issue.”
The filing came days after Ford and others, including Rose Sanders and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan toured the state, stopping at notable Civil Rights Movement locations in support of the Voting Rights Act.
The case will come before a federal court in the middle district. Relatedly, the US Supreme Court should release its decision soon in the Shelby v. Holder case, which challenges section five of the Voting Rights Act.