Court Rejects Arizona Senate’s Attempt to Keep Audit Documents Private


PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 01: Contractors working for Cyber Ninjas, who was hired by the Arizona State Senate, examine and recount ballots from the 2020 general election at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on May 1, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Maricopa County ballot recount comes after two election audits found no evidence of widespread fraud. (Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)

By Associated Press

January 25, 2022

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 partisan 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.

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