SCOTUS Rules Arizona GOP Legislators Must Provide Documents in Lawsuit Over Two Voter Suppression Laws

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Arizona House Speaker Ben Toma (R) and Senate President Warren Pettersen (R) will have to testify and provide documents in a lawsuit challenging two Arizona voter suppression laws following an order from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier today. 

In April, Toma and Pettersen intervened in a lawsuit challenging House Bills 2492 and 2243, which establish strict documentary proof of citizenship and residency requirements for voters. The consolidated lawsuit brought by eight pro-voting plaintiff groups argues that Arizona’s new laws violate the U.S. Constitution, the Materiality Provision of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. Toma and Pettersen stepped in to defend these voter suppression laws, but did not want to release communications requested by the groups pertaining to their intent behind passing the laws. 

Legislators will often argue that they are exempt from providing materials such as emails or text messages that are requested during the discovery process due to legislative privilege. Petersen and Toma argued that their communications were private due to legislative privilege, but the district court disagreed. 

Since Petersen and Toma voluntarily intervened in the lawsuit, the district court found that they “waived their legislative privilege as to information about their motives for the Voting Laws” and ordered them to produce communications relating to H.B. 2492 and H.B. 2243.  

After being ordered to produce documents, the Republican legislators asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for extraordinary relief in the form of a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a certain action) seeking reversal of the district court’s order. 

In addition, they asked the 9th Circuit to pause the order requiring them to cooperate with the discovery process. Last month, the 9th Circuit temporarily paused the district court’s order allowing Toma and Petersen to be deposed and requiring them to provide documents. 

Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit lifted its temporary pause after finding that the “circumstances no longer justify” a pause. Since they would then have to start complying with the plaintiffs’ discovery requests and the district court order, the Republican legislators asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency pause on the court’s “shadow docket.” 

On Nov. 24, the 9th Circuit rejected the Republican legislators’ request for a writ of mandamus and today, the Supreme Court denied their request to pause the 9th Circuit’s November order. As a result, Toma and Petersen will now have to provide documents about the intent behind Arizona’s new voter suppression laws and they could be deposed. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.

Learn more about the claims that went to trial here.