Leroy Pernell, et al. v. Robert Alexander Andrade, et al., No. 23-10616 (11th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Governor DeSantis signed into law the Individual Freedom Act, also called the Stop W.O.K.E. Act. Seven professors and one student from public universities in Florida challenged the law in the district court as violative of their civil rights. Plaintiffs served subpoenas on fourteen non-party legislators—thirteen co-sponsors of the Act and one legislator who supported the bill during a Florida House of Representatives debate. The district court partially granted and partially denied the legislators’ motion. After the legislators appealed, the district court stayed the discovery order pending the resolution of this appeal. At issue on appeal is whether a common-law privilege shields state legislators from a discovery request made for the purpose of determining the legislators’ motives in passing a law.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that factual documents are within the scope of the privilege, which is unqualified in this kind of lawsuit. The court explained that according to Plaintiffs’ response to the Florida legislators’ motion to quash the subpoena, the plaintiffs served the subpoenas on the legislators to “determine whether there was a discriminatory motive behind the [Act].” By Plaintiffs’ own admission, the subpoenas’ purpose was to uncover the legislators’ motives in passing the law. “The privilege applies with full force against requests for information about the motives for legislative votes and legislative enactments.” So, the privilege applies with its usual force against the discovery of even the factual documents in the Florida legislators’ possession. Accordingly, the court held that the district court abused its discretion when it determined otherwise.