As Georgia holds its Senate runoff, its electoral laws still struggle.

With early votes already taking place in Georgia’s US Senate runoff, it’s worth revisiting a recent case on the state’s electoral system. Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit voting rights organization founded by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, paid the law firm of prominent Georgian voting rights attorney Allegra Lawrence-Hardy approximately $9.4 million to settle a blockbuster voting rights case, Fair Fight Action vs. Raffensperger, to lead over several years.

Opponents of Abrams have objected to the amount of that fee and have made spurious allegations of conflict of interest because Abrams was also a candidate. But a close examination of the facts and the outcome of this case shows that the attorney’s fees were more than justified. Although Fair Fight Action ultimately lost its case, the court found egregious injustices that the Georgia legislature and Congress can now right.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers uncovered serious flaws in Georgia’s electoral law that affect voters of different color. The Georgian “Exact Match” system, which matches names on the electoral rolls to convicted felons, has an error rate of 60%. Georgians of color were 10 times more likely to have their voter registration flagged because their applications did not exactly match databases. As of January 2020, approximately 70% of Georgia’s 60,000 tagged voters were African American.

So why was the decision against Fair Fight? U.S. District Court Judge Steven Jones found that he was bound by the Supreme Court’s 2021 decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, which limited the application of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to determine whether a statute was discriminatory, as Fair Fight had argued. But it didn’t take 288 pages to dismiss a case. The judge saw serious problems with Georgia’s electoral system and was careful to point them out.

Jones’ finding of charges that were both “serious” and unconstitutional is a milestone for Georgia suffrage. The evidence uncovered by the plaintiffs strengthens the case for the Georgia Legislature to revise future election laws and for Congress to amend the Voting Rights Act or enact new election laws. Other federal or Georgia courts may also review the merits of plaintiffs’ arguments. New suffrage legislation is particularly likely if the differential impact on people of color demonstrated by plaintiffs in this case affects future elections.

Whether the Supreme Court revisits the Brnovich precedent, or whether the Georgia Legislature or Congress legislates to resolve this injustice, Lawrence-Hardy and her team, through a thorough presentation of carefully collected data, have convinced the court that a serious constitutional issue indeed exists extent is present.

First-class attorneys of all races who work on important cases want – and deserve – to be paid. Lawrence-Hardy is one such attorney. A graduate of Yale Law School, she has repeatedly made the list of the best attorneys in the state and even the country. She has twice served on the presidential campaign legal teams during state recounts—for Al Gore in 2000 and Joe Biden in 2020. She was a voting advisor for Atlanta in the 2017 mayoral election. And she grew up in Georgia and makes her life in the African American communities spent that were the focus of this case. There is no better attorney to take on a case involving the disenfranchisement of African Americans in Georgia.

As for the fee, $9.4 million is far from unusual in such a complex, high-profile case. Plaintiffs’ attorneys earned an average of $39.5 million in the largest securities class action settlements (the top 10% of settlements). The best law firms in the country can charge $2,000 or more an hour. Former President Donald Trump spent more than $3.8 million on “legal fees” this August alone, with most of that going to the attorney representing him in the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago documents. His PAC paid attorneys nearly $8 million to fight the 2020 election results (although he clearly lost) and his subsequent second impeachment for his role in the January 6 riot.

And while Lawrence & Bundy’s attorneys, including Lawrence-Hardy, charged greatly reduced rates from their usual fees, the work they did was not degraded in quality. The notes developed during the trial and reflected in the court’s verdict did not miraculously appear out of nowhere. Plaintiffs’ attorneys took hundreds of testimonies from Georgia voters and searched hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

Fair Fight Action v. Raffensperger was not technically a “win” for the plaintiffs, but his findings were a major win for voting rights in Georgia and across the country. Fair Fight Action rightly paid Lawrence-Hardy and her colleagues for their valiant efforts. It is now up to the Georgian legislature and Congress to put the work of these lawyers to good use to protect the 15th Amendment guaranteed right to vote for all Americans.