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Florida Supreme Court hears arguments on legislative privilege in redistricting case

The Florida Supreme Court hears arguments Monday on a predecent-setting question: Should Florida legislators and their staffs be forced to answer questions and turn over documents about the congressional redistricting process? 

The Legislature argues that legislative privilege shields them from discovery, that the court has previously rejected efforts to get staff and lawmakers to testify, and that if they change course it will have a chilling effect on the legislative process. The circuit court rejected that in part. The First District Court of Appeal held that legislative privilege does shield legislators and their staff from discovery. Now the League of Women Voters is asking the high court to review the ruling.

Lawyers for the League argue that the redistricting amendments approved by voters bans legislators from intentionally drawing maps to benefit an incumbent or political party. They argue that this prohibition supercedes any argument that legislators are exempt from testifying about their intentions when they drew the 2012 redistricting maps. And, they claim, there is no legislative privilege in the state Constitution.

By contrast, the Legislature has lined up a bi-partisan list of heavyweights to help them argue the case. A brief has been filed by former Republican Senate Presidents Ken Pruitt and John McKay and former Speaker of the House James Harold Thompson, a Democrat from Quincy who was speaker in the 1980s.

See the legal briefs here.