That was the question before the federal court on Tuesday.
U.S. Justice Department lawyers told a federal three-judge panel Tuesday that Texas legislators should not be shielded from testifying in a voter ID case.
But lawyers for state Attorney General Greg Abbott said deposing statehouse Republicans to determine legislative intent of the new photo ID requirement amounted to a “fishing expedition” by Justice Department attorneys.
The panel — Circuit Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer — is expected to rule soon on motions to expedite proceedings.
Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell said the Justice Department is looking for a statement from a lawmaker that could be portrayed in court as discriminatory intent.
Daniel Freeman, a Justice Department voting rights lawyer, said the state’s claim was baseless. He said Texas failed to meet its burden to show the law would not discriminate against minorities.
According to Michael Li, the court entered an order for more briefing on the matter. From the order:
At oral argument on Texas’s motion for protective order, the United States indicated that it can submit information that provides a factual basis in support of its request for discovery from Texas legislators. The United States is ordered to submit, by no later than April 10, 2012, such information. Texas may respond no later than April 13, 2012. In light of these deadlines, the April 9, 2012 deadline requiring depositions to commence and the April 20, 2012 deadline for the United States to inform the Court whether it intends to assert discriminatory purpose (set forth in the Court’s and Scheduling Orders) are VACATED.
See here for background. There was originally a July 9 trial date scheduled, but the Express News story says that has already been pushed back to a tentative date of July 30, but that’s presumably on the assumption of nobody appealing the ruling on this matter. Which is fine by me – the longer this takes, the less likely anything can be resolved before this year’s election.