Am Law 100 Leaders in Texas Unite in Opposition to New Voting Restrictions

Posted April 14th, 2021.

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More Am Law 100 firm leaders are signing a statement that denounces voter disenfranchisement efforts, including leaders of Big Law firms in Texas, where the Legislature is considering bills that would limit access to voting.

By Brenda Sapino Jeffreys

As the Texas Legislature considers Republican-sponsored bills that would impose new limits on voting, the leaders of five Am Law 100 firms founded in Texas have signed or plan to sign a statement denouncing voter disenfranchisement.

The leaders of the five Am Law 100 firms founded in Texas join leaders of dozens of other law firms, as well as a number of current and former general counsel who are speaking out in the wake of a new law in Georgia that critics say disenfranchises voters. Meanwhile, there are ongoing efforts in Texas and elsewhere to pass “voter integrity” legislation that has received similar criticism.

Kim Koopersmith, chairwoman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Vinson & Elkins chairman Mark Kelly and managing partner Scott Wulfe; John Martin, managing partner of Baker Botts; and Taylor Wilson, managing partner of Haynes and Boone, have signed the statement. A spokeswoman for Locke Lord said on Wednesday that chairman David Taylor will sign it as well.

The cascading effort to show Big Law opposition to voter suppression was launched by Brad Karp, chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and chairman of the Legal Action Center, who had called on lawyers to “take a stand” against laws that make it more difficult for people to vote. He asked leaders of major firms to sign the statement denouncing voter disenfranchisement, and Lucy Fato, general counsel of AIG, secured support from current or former general counsel.

The Texas firm leaders were not immediately available to discuss their reasons for signing the statement. However, Vinson & Elkins’ Kelly wrote in an email, “The right to vote freely and fairly is fundamental to every American, and we believe as a firm that supporting those rights is important.”

The issue is at the forefront at the Texas Legislature, where Republicans have sponsored bills that would impose further restrictions on voting in Texas. Senate Bill 7 would limit extended early voting hours, ban drive-thru voting and allow partisan poll watchers to video voters who need help with their ballots. Also, county election officials would not be allowed to send out vote-by-mail applications to voters who don’t request them. Under House Bill 6, it would be a state felony for county election officials to distribute an application to vote by mail to voters who didn’t request one.

Koopersmith, Kelly and Wulfe were on the initial list of legal leaders who signed the statement, made public on Monday. The others are among a growing number of Big Law leaders who have signed the statement since Paul Weiss released an updated list on Tuesday.

Other new Am Law 100 signatories include Richard Hays, chairman and managing partner of Alston & Bird; Patrick Quinn, managing partner of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Kenneth Leonetti, co-managing partner of Foley Hoag; Richard Trobman, chairman and managing partner of Latham & Watkins; and Alexander “Sandy” Thomas, global managing partner of Reed Smith.

Among global firms, the signers included Mark Wasserman, co-chief executive officer of Eversheds Sutherland; and chairwoman Georgia Dawson and managing partner Alan Mason of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Leaders of Second Hundred firms who signed include managing partner Dana Rosenfeld and chairman Jim Carr of Kelley Drye & Warren; John Hensien, chief executive officer of Clark Hill; and Madeleine M. McDonough, chairwoman of Shook, Hardy & Bacon. Others include Faith Gay, founding partner of Selendy & Gay; David Sanford, chairman of Sanford Heisler Sharp; and Jill Simeone, chief legal officer and corporate secretary of Etsy.

This is the statement:

“Equal access to voting is a fundamental right in the United States. Making voting easier, not harder, for all eligible voters should be the goal of every elected official. Election laws that impose unnecessary obstacles and barriers on the right to vote and that disenfranchise underrepresented groups represent a significant step backwards for all Americans. Now, more than ever, courageous leadership is required from our elected officials. We, the undersigned law firm managing partners and corporate general counsel, denounce all efforts to restrict the constitutional right of every eligible American to vote and to participate in our democracy.”

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