APRIL 14, 2014
ACLU “witch hunt” subpoenas target dozens of individuals and organizations, seeking to “chill the First Amendment speech, association, and assembly rights of Americans”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it is preparing a strong defense against a sweeping subpoena “witch hunt” filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against dozens of conservative organizations and individuals. The subpoenas were issued in an ACLU challenge immigration enforcement law SB 1070, Arizona’s “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act.” Terming the ACLU attacks “a move of breathtaking hypocrisy,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton accused the organization billing itself as the “nation’s guardian of liberty” of “seeking to chill the First Amendment speech, association and assembly rights of Americans.”
Among those targeted by the ACLU, along with Judicial Watch, are more than twenty current and former members of the Arizona State Legislature, public interest groups such as the Center for Immigration Studies, NumbersUSA, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, nine police associations, including the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police and the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, political groups such as the Arizona State Republican Party, the Arizona African American Republican Club, the Arizona Republican Assembly, and three Arizona senior citizens who have no apparent connection to SB 1070.
The subpoenas are part of litigation brought by the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other leftist groups challenging SB1070 in federal court (Valle Del Sol, et al. v. Michael B. Whiting, et al. (No. cv-10-01061)). They demand “all communications” from the targeted organizations and individuals related to SB 1070, immigrants and immigration, including emails and computer files. The ACLU subpoenas specifically note all communications that include words such as “aliens,” “illegal aliens,” “illegals,” “Mexican,” “Latino,” “invasion,” “beaner,” “spic” and “wetback.”
In an op-ed appearing in the Wednesday, April 9, 2014, Washington Times, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the subpoenas, “filled with racial slurs,” are parts of a politically motivated “ground war” against conservatives. Fitton wrote:
The ACLU knows full well it cannot win in the courts with such tactics. But this is not about winning in the courts. This is about winning a political ground war with ugly and false insinuations of racism. In a move of breathtaking hypocrisy, the ACLU is seeking to chill the First Amendment speech, association and assembly rights of Americans who played by the rules and worked to support a law they believed was in the best interests of the country.
In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld SB 1070’s key provision that police can check the immigration status of an individual if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country unlawfully. “The ACLU objects to that decision,” Fitton wrote in the Times op-ed. “It is trying to take another shot at the high court’s ruling with a lawsuit claiming that SB 1070 was the product of ‘racial animus’ and ‘invites racial profiling.’ So it has embarked on a witch hunt for racial profilers.”
One of the senior citizens targeted by the ACLU, Laura Leighton, is a 67-year-old Tucson, Arizona, resident who has been on disability for many years. In a letter to the ACLU, she pleaded, “I am not related to this lawsuit in any way and am not even sure what this lawsuit is about.” Another ACLU target is a 74-year-old grandmother who recently underwent three cardiac surgeries. She, too, says she had nothing to do with SB 1070. In both cases, the ACLU pressured the senior citizens to allow someone to come to their homes and search their computers.
According to Fitton, the real motive for the ACLU subpoenas is “retaliation and harassment.” “Ms. Leighton and other subpoena recipients are targets simply because we hold views different from the ACLU and its clients,” Fitton says. “But the discovery process in civil litigation does not authorize the ACLU to trample on core First Amendment and privacy rights. Our message to the ACLU: see you in court.”
Judicial Watch, which represents many individuals and organizations targeted for harassment by the ACLU, plans to challenge the ACLU subpoenas in federal courts, if necessary.
(Judicial Watch has formerly represented the Arizona State Legislature in legal challenges to the SB 1070. In February 2012, Judicial Watch filed two separate amicus curiae briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of SB 1070, one on behalf of former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, author of the law, and a second on behalf of State Legislators for Legal Immigration. The amicus briefs asked the Court to reverse a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling placing key provisions of SB 1070 on hold. In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the law, allowing police officers to check the immigration status of individuals they arrest or stop for questioning whom they suspect are in the U.S. illegally.)