Last night, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols did former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows a favor by dismissing his lawsuit to prevent the Select Committee from subpoenaing his phone records and forcing him to testify on January 6. Instead of delving into the issues at hand, the court dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, ruling that the entire claim is barred by the Speech or Debate Clause.
The court is in an unusual position because neither party invoked legislative immunity. And yet, Judge Nichols asserted it on the spur of the moment, tut-tutting at the Congressional defendants’ failure to assert their rights, implying that they were attempting to have their cake and eat it, keeping Speech or Debate defenses in their back pocket to assert on appeal if the District judge ruled against them.
“The Congressional Defendants surely hope for a ruling in their favor on the merits, and in pursuit of that ruling they appear willing to cast jurisdictional constraints aside,” he sniffed, adding, “Because the parties’ position is at odds with decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals recognizing the immunity as a limitation on the Court’s power, the Court concludes that it can—and must—address the question even absent invocation by the Defendants.”
“Without a clear renunciation of the immunity, the Court cannot proceed to assess the merits of the claims against the Congressional Defendants, despite their desire for a favorable decision,” he concluded.
And so, finding that “the subpoenas (and therefore Meadows’s claims challenging them) are covered by the Speech or Debate Clause” and thus “the challenged subpoenas are protected legislative acts,” Judge Nichols promptly dismissed the case.
Meadows’ arguments about the January 6 Committee’s invalidity and accusations that it lacked a legitimate legislative purpose were rejected by the court. This implies that the committee can still try to force Verizon to turn over Meadows’ pen register data.