Arkansas: Doc­u­ment hunt in LGBT case too broad

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - KELLY P. KIS­SEL

LIT­TLE ROCK — At­tor­neys for Arkansas want a court to can­cel sub­poe­nas is­sued in the bat­tle over a gay rights or­di­nance in Fayet­teville, say­ing they’re too broad and would “evis­cer­ate” pri­vacy rights granted to leg­is­la­tors and the gover­nor.

The state Supreme Court struck down Fayet­teville’s anti- dis­crim­i­na­tion or­di­nance in Fe­bru­ary, say­ing it vi­o­lates state law, but jus­tices didn’t rule on whether law is con­sti­tu­tional be­cause the ques­tion wasn’t ad­dressed in the lower court.

In the re­newed bat­tle over Fayet­teville’s or­di­nance, groups rep­re­sent­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity have asked the state and bill spon­sors Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, and Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Ber­ryville, pro­duce ev­ery­thing they have re­gard­ing a state law pre­vent­ing com­mu­ni­ties from ex­tend­ing pro­tec­tions not men­tioned else­where in the state code.

Lawyers for the state said Mon­day the re­quest is an “un­par­al­leled ex­am­i­na­tion” and the re­quest would re­quire Arkansas to ex­am­ine mil­lions of pages from 74,000 state em­ploy­ees.

They said let­ting the re­quests go through “would sub­stan­tially al­ter Arkansas’ care­fully crafted sys­tem of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers, evis­cer­ate ex­ec­u­tive priv­i­lege, and ef­fec­tively sweep away the an­cient and ven­er­a­ble prin­ci­ple of leg­isla­tive priv­i­lege em­bod­ied in the Arkansas con­sti­tu­tion.”

In court pro­ceed­ings, op­pos­ing sides share doc­u­ments in a process known as dis­cov­ery. Lawyers for the state say they asked the lawyers for the groups rep­re­sent­ing the LGBT com­mu­nity to nar­row their re­quest for doc­u­ments but were turned down. Court records show the group be­lieves its re­quests aren’t too broad.

“We are not ask­ing that the state search all agen­cies and em­ploy­ees,” they wrote. “In recog­ni­tion of the fact that the state will know far bet­ter than us where re­spon­sive doc­u­ments are rea­son­ably likely to be lo­cated, we ask that the state pro­pose a list of the gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies where re­spon­sive doc­u­ments are likely to ex­ist.”

They wrote to the state in June say­ing that, when it didn’t re­ceive a list from the state, it nar­rowed its re­quest to 17 ex­ec­u­tive or leg­isla­tive de­part­ments and of­fices, along with the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville.

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