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.

 

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Members of the UNC-Chapel Hill journalism school faculty overwhelmingly reject the notion that a meg [...]

Tests show high PFAS levels at site that received contaminated soil from massive Colonial Pipeline s [...]

Last month the North Carolina Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the state corporate income t [...]

Why would public defenders representing patients want a requirement that prosecutors be present? Eac [...]

As P.T. Barnum is so famously credited with observing a century and half ago, Americans can be a sur [...]

The post The new political witch hunt appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

On a sunny Wednesday a little over a month ago, my 7-year-old daughter bravely held my hand as we wa [...]

There have been many contributing factors to the disastrous scope and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic [...]