Alabama federal judge dismisses lawsuit against Democratic Party, ending years-long dispute

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against state and federal Democratic Party officials, ending a years-long dispute over the control of the party in Alabama.

The lawsuit, filed by former party insiders Randy Kelley and Janet May, claimed that state party bylaws passed during a 2019 meeting violated a consent decree meant to increase African-American representation on the party’s governing committee. The bylaws, the judge wrote, changed the way the governing body elected at-large members “by shifting the power to elect at-large members solely from the Black minority caucus to the [body] as a whole.”

Those changes, the lawsuit argued, not only violate the consent decree but also violate the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

In a 16-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Austin Huffaker, Jr., dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice, rejecting the arguments made by plaintiffs in the case.

“After reviewing all the relevant filings, and having had the benefit of oral argument, the Court concludes that both of Defendants’ arguments are correct, and that the Motion to Dismiss is due to be granted,” the judge’s order said.

The judge explained that the lawsuit was one element in a years-long intraparty dispute over representation and control.

“In more recent years, disputes have arisen between factions within the SDECA and the Democratic National Committee concerning the future direction of the Alabama Democratic Party and its long-time leadership by Nancy Worley and Joe L. Reed,” the judge said.

At the 2019 meeting where party officials adopted the bylaw changes at issue in the lawsuit, members of the State Democratic Executive Committee also elected new leadership, including State Rep. Chris England as chair, replacing longtime Chairwoman Nancy Worley, and Patricia Todd as Vice-Chair, replacing Randy Kelley.

Barry Ragsdale, a lawyer who represented England and others in the case, said the decision is a “big win.”

“This is a big win for Chairman Chris England and the future of the state party,” Ragsdale said.

CBS 42 reached out to lawyers for Kelley and May for comment and has not yet heard back.

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