State lawmakers holding tight to their privilege in voting rights cases

Voter IDThe battle over the disclosure of information relating to the passage of controversial voting law changes last summer continues in federal court, as state lawmakers yesterday filed an objection to a magistrate’s  order requiring them to produce at least some documents they’d claimed were absolutely protected under the doctrines of legislative immunity and legislative privilege.

In that order, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake  adopted a flexible approach, finding that at a minimum, certain documents — communications with constituents or other third-parties, for example  — were not protected and should be produced, and that other documents might likewise have to be disclosed if the need for them in the voting rights context outweighed any intrusion on the legislative process.

That’s an approach that courts elsewhere have adopted — in Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, for example — weighing the need of legislators to be free from harassing questions about their decision-making processes with the needs of citizens suspicious of those lawmakers’ motives – and in the end, ordering the disclosure of at least some information.

“This is a place where courts have rarely spoken, but clearly the concern that legislative officials might not be acting with the best interests of their public in mind has caused this issue to arise more frequently,” said Justin Levitt, a voting law expert and professor at Loyola Law School.

The lawmakers’ objection means that disclosure of their documents will be further delayed as U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who is presiding over the three cases pending in Winston-Salem,  reviews the magistrate’s ruling and affirms, overrules or modifies its terms.

The court has been pushing the parties in the cases to hasten the disclosure of information with a view towards the filing of papers seeking to delay implementation of the voting changes so that, at least during the upcoming November elections, voters will maintain the full range of voting options they previously had — extended early voting and same-day registration, for example.

Those papers are tentatively scheduled for filing in May, with a hearing to be held some time in July.



  1. GOP Rules

    April 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    It is likely public opinion on the VIVA is going to become even more unfavorable….what with the MASSIVE voter fraud that was uncovered recently….and subsequently ignored here at the watch. Heck, even the MSM has deemed this a reportable event in contrast to Fitzy and Co.!

  2. Alan

    April 4, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Every one of them was a Republican, I guarantee it!

  3. Jack

    April 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

    GOP RULES: Show the proof of the voter fraud that you say was uncovered recently. Show that the GOP has even a little character in their grab for power that they still believe in proving their allegations. Fact is the GOP doesn’t care about the people of NC nor the rights of North Carolinians. The proof of my statement is in the laws of discrimination and suppression that has been passed by the GOP controlled NCGA. And to top it off Don Yelton let the cat out of the bag when he admitted on nation wide television that the GOP got voter suppression passed for the purpose of harm.

  4. Jim Wiseman

    April 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Jack, want proof? Read the news, if you can find it in liberal-run media. Lots more proof that voter fraud exists than proof that it doesn’t.

  5. GOP Rules

    April 4, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Jack, Here you are. Some 35,000 people voting in multiple states. And that only encompasses about half of the states. About 1,000 more have exact matches with the SS# too. This is HUGE when you consider the margin of victory in most recent elections.

  6. LayintheSmakDown

    April 4, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    Still no pulse stories on the election fraud!

  7. LayintheSmakDown

    April 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Oh, and maybe they are sticking to the Gene Nichols defense!

  8. Jack

    April 8, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Just because you say it is voter fraud doesn’t make it so. That is unless we’re going to accept allegations as proof then I guess the proof has been revealed. So far a paper trail has been presented, therefore, investigated the paper trail to prove this issue one way or the other.

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