Legal fight over subpoenas continues

The legal battle appears to be continuing over House Speaker Tim Jones’ subpoenas to some officials in Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration, on behalf of a special committee Jones formed to investigate the state Revenue Department’s practice of scanning and saving documents with personal information.

But lawyers for Jones’ 21-member Bipartisan Investigative Committee on Privacy Protection on Friday asked Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green to dismiss the lawsuit, because it no longer means anything.

Jones “issued the subpoenas (to) compel ... attendance at a June 27, 2013, hearing,” former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, representing the committee, wrote in a three-page motion to dismiss the case, which was filed Friday morning.

“The time for the hearing has long since come and gone. More importantly, on July 3, 2013, Jones and (House Judiciary Chairman Stanley) Cox released (the administration officials) from their obligation to comply with the subpoenas.”

That motion came two days after the committee filed a separate motion asking Green to reject against Nixon’s original lawsuit, arguing that “each and every ground” raised in the case “is meritless as a matter of fact and of law.”

Lawyer James McAdams, who was an assistant attorney general when the governor was Missouri’s chief lawyer, has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the arguments raised in Wednesday’s motion, and the committee’s attorneys then have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to answer any documents that McAdams files by Tuesday.

In that part of the case, Green said he then would reach a decision “without oral argument.”

But the judge made no docket entry about any deadlines for the committee’s Friday motion to end the case without any ruling.

Committee members said Nixon’s people — including Administration Commissioner Doug Nelson, Policy Director Jeff Harris, Nixon Deputy Chief Counsel Chris Pieper, Peter Lyskowski and Kristy Manning — had agreed to testify voluntarily, and then backed out at the last minute.

So Jones issued the subpoenas ordering the officials to testify, and those subpoenas were delivered to some of the officials late Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, in advance of a 10 a.m. hearing that Thursday.

But the administration moved to block the subpoenas, arguing the Bipartisan Committee wasn’t a proper legislative panel and, therefore, had no authority to order potential witnesses to testify.

The committee countered the courts have no constitutional power to tell the House — a separate branch of government — how it can organize a committee, or whom it can subpoena to testify.

If he doesn’t dismiss the case, Green also must decide a Nixon motion filed June 28, seeking a change of judge.

State law allows each party in a lawsuit the right to change judges once, without giving any reason — and the committee on June 27 already removed Cole County Presiding Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce from hearing the case, the same day the Nixon administration first filed its lawsuit.

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