Calling part of Texas’ litigation position “inconsistent,” a federal trial judge has ordered the state to turn over certain legislative records to the U.S. Department of Justice in a closely watched Voting Rights Act case. The Justice Department is seeking information from more than three dozen Texas state lawmakers that could illuminate the Legislature’s motivation in 2011 to enact congressional redistricting plans. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling on Tuesday gives the federal government some access to documents that lawyers for Texas argued were off limits. Lawyers for Texas insisted the Justice Department must subpoena the individual legislators for the documents. The attorneys said Texas did not have possession of or control the documents. The state argued that the individual lawmakers are not parties in the lawsuit.
Texas earlier demonstrated it had the ability to obtain documents and electronically stored information, Garcia said in his ruling. He pointed to the state’s Voting Rights Act case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“In addition, Texas concedes that it has produced certain nonpublic legislative [electronically stored information] ‘as a matter of courtesy,’ ” Garcia wrote in a footnote. “As a matter of logic, if Texas has the ability to produce documents as a courtesy, it cannot deny that it has the ‘practical ability’ to obtain such documents.”