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Federal court expected to rule on extent of legislative immunity

Winston-Salem Journal (5/12/14): Judge Thomas Schroder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina heard arguments Friday on the concept of legislative immunity. The arguments were part of a challenge to the state's new voter ID requirement. The ruling could potentially have an effect on the N.C. Public Records Law.

Winston-Salem Journal: As part of a lawsuit over the state's new voter ID law, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroder heard arguments Friday on the extent of legislative immunity. The plaintiffs in the case, which include the ACLU, the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters, requested subpoenas of legislative records, including emails of legislators, related to the new law. The legislators are resisting the subpoenas arguing that they are covered by legislative immunity, a common law concept that provides protection to members of the general assembly from prosecution for acts done in their roles as legislators. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake previously ruled that some of the records being sought in the lawsuit are not covered by legislative immunity and were also subject to the N.C. Public Records Law. Peake is scheduled to hear the case when it goes to trial in the Summer of 2015. Her ruling on the legislative immunity question was appealed by the state, which is why the case was in front of Shroder on Friday. 

The General Assembly is a public body subject to the N.C. Public Records Law, but individual legislators have in the past claimed that their emails and work product are exempt because of legislative immunity.

Read the WSJ article here.  

Jonathan Jones,
5/13/2014 10:25 AM