Judge Damon Keith (right) gets ready to swear in former Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing as the new Mayor of Detroit on May 11, 2009, in Detroit.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Federal appeals judge Damon Keith is one of several black judges involved in Ohio’s longest-running voting lawsuit, one that strikes at the heart of voter suppression in one of the most significant of the “battleground states.” And he’s not the only one.

In the decade-old case, Judge Keith said he was “deeply saddened and distraught” over a majority opinion last month and filled 11 pages with photographs of those slain in the fight for civil rights, reports the Associated Press.


“I will not forget,” wrote Keith, 94, who included the faces of dead black and white men, women and children in his filing. "I cannot forget—indeed America cannot forget—the pain, suffering, and sorrow of those who died for equal protection and for this precious right to vote.”

He called the people included “martyrs” and also noted that they represented “a mere fraction” of the “assaults, rapes, murders, lynching, and utter travesty of the struggle for equality.”

AP reports that the Ohio Democratic Party and advocates for the homeless are weighing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted on Oct. 6 and declined to revisit a three-judge panel decision before all 15 circuit judges. Keith had been the lone dissenter on the panel.

The current fight focuses on election rules that disqualify thousands of absentee and provisional ballots in Ohio because of minor mistakes or omissions.


U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley, in Columbus, who is also black, had found in favor of Democrats and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless in June. Marbley found that the disputed election rules disproportionately affected black voters, but found no evidence that the state’s Republican-controlled, predominantly white Legislature intentionally discriminated, reports AP.

In September, the three-judge panel overturned large portions of Marbley’s ruling. Keith argued in his dissent that the court’s decision would “gut the factual findings of the district court” and “shut the most vulnerable out of the political process.”


In the October decision, another pair of black judges, Chief Judge Guy Cole and Judge Bernice Donald, also entered powerfully worded dissents to their fellow judges who voted against granting the full-court review of the case.

Cole argued that the majority’s analysis misinterpreted or ignored the intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the “voluminous evidence” reviewed by Marbley during a 12-day bench trial.


Donald wrote: “The majority must not pretend to write on a clean slate while ignoring the bloody and shameful history of denial.”

We shall see if this goes to—and is heard by—the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read more at the Associated Press.

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