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Stringer goes to court to stop expulsion

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

Symbol of law and justice in the empty courtroom, law and justice concept.

Rep. David Stringer’s attorney is seeking a temporary restraining order in anticipation of an attempt to expel him for not cooperating with a House Ethics Committee subpoena.

A hearing on the motion will be held in Maricopa County Superior Court at 4 p.m. today.

Attorney Carmen Chenal told the Arizona Capitol Times she is seeking the restraining order “so that they don’t kick him out of the Legislature today for not being responsive” to the Ethics Committee’s subpoena. Under that subpoena, Stringer has until today to provide documents to the committee, which Chenal said he won’t, and until Friday to sit for an interview with special counsel Joe Kanefield, which he likely won’t do either.

Chenal said she doesn’t know with certainty that Stringer’s colleagues intend to motion to expel him today or otherwise, but that seems to be the intention, she said. The House has already adjourned for the day and will not return to the floor until tomorrow at 1 p.m.

David Stringer

David Stringer

House spokesman Matt Specht said the House was not aware of the motion. But Ethics Chairman Rep. T.J. Shope said precedent around the separation of powers would seem to indicate the court cannot interfere anyway.

At least one constitutional law expert largely agreed that Chenal’s preemptive bid to save her client’s political career may be futile – or at least too soon.

Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender said the courts are not likely to get involved before the Legislature has taken any action against Stringer.

But the answer was not crystal clear even to Bender.

Typically, the courts would not interfere with the Legislature, even when lawmakers may intend to do something unconstitutional, he said. For example, if the Legislature was considering a bill to ban all abortions across the country, the court would wait for the bill to pass before taking up a case to determine that action was not constitutional.

“So the question here is whether the same kind of rules apply to disciplinary actions. Do you let them do what they’re going to do and then decide whether it was constitutional, or do you interfere with them before they do it to stop them from doing something that you think is unconstitutional?” Bender said. “My instinct, maybe because I think it’s the best thing to do, is that the courts would basically stay out of it until the Legislature does something.”

If Stringer is expelled for ignoring the subpoena, that would be the best time to contest the constitutionality of that action, he said.

“Let’s see if they really do expel him. If they do, that’s something he could take to court,” Bender said. “I don’t know who would win that, but I would suspect that they would have a right to expel him for disregarding a subpoena if it is a legitimate subpoena.”

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