MILWAUKEE (CN) - Republican legislators cannot keep private information on Wisconsin's redistricting, a three-judge federal panel ruled, writing bluntly: "the Legislature has taken action that affects the voting rights of Wisconsin's citizens and now attempts to cloak the record of that action behind a charade masking as privilege."
"Quite clearly, the Wisconsin State Senate and Wisconsin State Assembly (collectively, the 'Legislature') and its attorneys are none too pleased with this three-judge Court's prior orders, filed on December 8, 2011, and December 20, 2011, respectively," the judges wrote. "By those orders, this Court twice held that neither Joe Handrick, a lobbyist hired by the Legislature to assist in preparing the redistricting plan now challenged in this case, nor documents in his possession are protected by legislative privilege, attorney-client privilege, or work product privilege. The Legislature's dissatisfaction with the Court's prior decisions is clear from its refusal to comply with those orders. Rather than comply, the Legislature has all but declined to cooperate with the plaintiffs' reasonable discovery efforts. And, now, the Legislature again reaffirms its displeasure by filing a 'Motion for Review by Three-Judge Court' of the Court's two prior orders.
"But this new motion - in reality, the Legislature's second collateral attack on the wisdom of the Court's prior orders in as many weeks - is completely devoid of merit. In the Court's eyes, this motion is nothing more than a third bite at an apple that the Court has twice explained is a bitter one to chew. In reality, the Court can deny the Legislature's motion without reaching its merits; but, even quickly reaching the merits, it is clear that the Legislature's motion fails. And, thus - for the third time - this Court rules that neither Mr. Handrick nor the documents he holds are protected by privilege." (Citations omitted.)
U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller wrote the latest order in Alvin Baldus et al. v. Members of the Wisconsin Accountability Board and Voces de la Frontera et al. v. Members of the Wisconsin Accountability Board.
U.S. District Judges Diane Wood and Robert Dow Jr. joined in finding that legislators refused to cooperate with the plaintiffs, who challenged the constitutionality of the state's redistricting plan, saying it was designed to favor Republicans.
Lest there be any doubt, the court wrote: "given the Legislature's refusal to adequately cooperate in the discovery process, despite the Court's having twice denied their requests for privilege, the Court reaffirms its earlier directive: cooperate immediately. Neither this Court, the parties in the case, nor Wisconsin's citizens have the interest or time to endure the litigation tactics being used by public officials or their private counsel in what has quickly become a poorly disguised attempt to cover up a process that should have been public from the outset, despite the Legislature's concerted efforts to mask the process behind the closed doors of a private law firm. To remedy this regrettable situation, the Court grants the plaintiffs' requests to reconvene the depositions of Mr. Handrick, as well as Tad Ottman and Adam Foltz, with the specific directive that those individuals comply with each of the Court's successive orders, including today's order, denying privilege." (Italics in original.)