PHOENIX — Republican leaders in the Arizona Legislature want taxpayers to
pay for a legal fight against subpoenas seeking emails from nearly two dozen
current and former lawmakers in a case stemming from a challenge to Arizona’s
anti-immigration law, SB1070.
The subpoenas targeting Legislative, personal and campaign correspondence from
21 House and Senate members are a fishing expedition by the American Civil
Liberties Union designed to harass members who supported the 2010 law, Senate
President Andy Biggs said Tuesday.
Biggs said the plan is to push legislation in the Senate and House authorizing
$100,000 to pay private lawyers fighting the subpoenas. Former members otherwise
would have to fight with their own funds for votes they took while in office.
“It is moral and is it the right thing to do,” Biggs said. “People were
simply doing their job out there. Now they’re out in the private jobs and they
find themselves in a witch-hunt subpoena.”
He said some of the subpoenas were issued to lawmakers who weren’t even in the
Legislature when the law passed. The Senate Republican caucus discussed the
issue and proposed legislation in a closed session Tuesday.
The proposed legislation was first reported by the Arizona Capitol Times.
The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated major parts of SB1070 in 2012. The subpoenas
stem from the ALCU’s continuing efforts to get the rest of SB1070 declared
invalid on the basis that lawmakers were motivated by racial bias and fears of
criminal behavior when they passed the law. That would violate the equal
protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton last month rejected an argument that the
communications from supporters of the legislation to lawmakers’ official
accounts were confidential. Challengers also want to see similar correspondence
between Arizona legislators and SB1070 supporters that led to the creation of
earlier immigration measures in 2008 through 2010.
The new subpoenas target personal correspondence, which one of the current
lawmakers targeted called an invasion of his privacy.
“I’m not being sued, they’re using subpoena to try to dig into my personal
life,” Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, said. “It’s way too far.”
The subpoenas seek communications containing terms such as “immigrant,”
“illegals,” “undocumented,” “day laborer” and “Mexican.” Seel said that
if he had sent his wife a note saying, for instance, that they should take a
vacation to Mexico, that would fall under the subpoena.
“It’s an intrusion into my personal life,” said Seel, who helped push SB1070
through the House.
One of those targeted is former Senate President Russell Pearce, who gained
national notoriety for pushing SB1070. He was recalled from office in 2011.
ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler said the civil rights group
was only seeking emails that dealt with the legislation in an effort to show
lawmakers had a racial bias while contemplating the proposed law. Many lawmakers
now use their personal computers for public business, she noted, and the
subpoenas only seek emails that deal with SB1070.
“Our position is if they’re relevant to the issues in the legislation they
should be turned over,” Soler said. “Because we believe these emails show the
real motivations behind the bill.”