Arizona Senate’s privilege argument rejected by appeals court
PHOENIX (AP) — A state appeals court says legislative privilege does not broadly protect the Arizona Senate from having to release hundreds of public records related to the review of the 2020 election.
The Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s narrow view of the legislative privilege, rejecting arguments by lawyers for the Republican-controlled Senate.
The Senate and Cyber Ninjas — the inexperienced firm it hired to run the GOP’s 2020 election review — have been battling for months over two public records lawsuits, one each filed by the parent of The Arizona Republic and American Oversight, a government watchdog group.
The Senate has disclosed more than 20,000 records but is withholding all or part of about 1,000 documents citing the legislative privilege, which is meant to promote robust debate among elected officials.
Senate Republicans argued that the privilege applies broadly to lawmakers’ communications about the election review. But the judges ruled the privilege applies only to discussions related to the process of passing legislation.
The judges directed the Senate to release the records to American Oversight or give them to a judge to decide whether the more narrow view of legislative privilege will allow the Senate to withhold specific documents. The Senate also could appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Kory Langhofer, an attorney for the Senate, said Senate leaders are still deciding how to proceed.