U.S. Justice Department lawyers told a federal three-judge panel today that Texas state legislators should not be shielded from testifying in a case centering on the legality of the state’s new Voter ID law. But lawyers for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said deposing statehouse Republicans to determine legislative intent of the new photo ID law amounted to a “fishing expedition” by Justice Department attorneys. The judges, Circuit Judge David Tatel, District Judge Robert Wilkins and District Judge Rosemary Collyer, are expected to rule soon on motions to expedite proceedings. A tentative trial date of July 30 is being considered, which would allow implementation of the new voter photo ID law by the November general election. But Justice Department lawyers are skeptical that the case can be resolved in time for the election, and lawyers for the state have signaled that they could appeal unfavorable procedural rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court.
One such ruling could come on Texas’ claim of privilege and its motion to block the federal government from deposing GOP lawmakers to determine their intent in passing the voter photo ID law. 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 Texas’ claim was baseless. He said Texas failed to meet its burden to show the law would not discriminate against minorities.