Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Judicial Winning: Lisa Branch

Before being confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2018, Elizabeth “Lisa” Branch established herself as a fair-minded judge during her years on the Georgia Court of Appeals. It is therefore no surprise that she has stood out as one of President Trump’s star judicial appointments.

Recently in Greater Birmingham Ministries v. Secretary of State for Alabama, Judge Branch upheld a commonsense voter ID law in the Yellowhammer State. Multiple groups challenged the 2011 law, which lists out seven different kinds of photo IDs that voters could show to verify that they are who they say they are. If that was not enough, the law also provides several options for voters to obtain an ID card through the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. The challengers tried making the case that the law violated both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, but Judge Branch — writing for a 2-1 panel of the Eleventh Circuit — rightly turned away these arguments.

Judge Branch noted that the State of Alabama has bent over backwards to make this law work for its citizens, as the State looks to ensure the integrity of its elections. With millions of state dollars spent advertising the requirements and even personalized postcards mailed to voters, the truth is clear: This law is about the integrity of elections in Alabama, not racial discrimination.

As Judge Branch concluded in this case, “The burden of providing a photo ID . . .  in order to vote is a minimal burden on Alabama’s voters — especially when Alabama accepts so many different forms of photo ID and makes acquiring one simple and free for voters who lack a valid ID but wish to obtain one.”

In the end, the Eleventh Circuit’s decision stands as a strong affirmation of the rule of law. And with her well-reasoned opinion in this highly charged case, Judge Branch has proven herself yet again to be the kind of judge who takes a serious approach to her caseload and applies the law in an evenhanded manner.

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