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Supreme Court paves way for DOJ to subpoena Texas lawmakers in Voting Rights Act lawsuit

There were no noted dissents to the Supreme Court order.

The state’s attorney general had argued the legislators are immune from such requests for testimony, arguing that the depositions will “probe the very innerworkings of the legislative process, examining the legislators’ thoughts, impressions, and motivations in their legislative acts.”

The case relates to lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice and voting rights groups alleging that Texas’s 2021 congressional and statehouse redistricting plans — based on the 2020 census — violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The provision of law prohibits states from adopting voting rules that result in the “denial or abridgement” of the right to vote on account of “race or color.” The challengers served subpoenas to the legislators — Ryan Guillen, Brooks Landgraf and John Lujan — representing three of the Texas House districts that are under challenge.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar urged the court to deny Texas’ request to block the testimony. She said that the DOJ seeks the testimony “as is routine in redistricting cases.”

“Courts,” Prelogar said in legal briefs, “often rely on such testimony both in assessing the motive and justifications for districting choices” and in considering the circumstances relevant to minority voters’ electoral opportunities.

A three-judge district court denied the motion from the state to quash the subpoenas categorically, saying the issue was not yet ripe for consideration because the interviews had yet to begin. The court said the depositions could go forward and noted that the legislators could assert a state legislative privilege in response to particular questions.

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