Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hawley's Attorneys Say He Shouldn't Be Deposed, in Part, Because He's a 'High-Level Public Official'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hawley's Attorneys Say He Shouldn't Be Deposed, in Part, Because He's a 'High-Level Public Official'

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY - U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley won't be deposed by a Democrat running for Missouri attorney general without a fight.

Attorneys for Hawley, a Republican who until January served as attorney general, filed on Thursday a motion to quash a subpoena by Elad Gross, a lawyer from St. Louis who is suing the state over an open records dispute. Gross is running for attorney general in 2020 as a Democrat.

In court filings, lawyer Lowell Pearson, of Husch Blackwell, said Hawley should not be compelled to be deposed under oath for three reasons: Gross' subpoena was improperly served; Gross did not adequately make the case that Hawley had relevant information to share; and, because the testimony of a "high-level public official," should be taken only in extreme circumstances.

The Cole County Circuit Court issued this week a subpoena to Hawley at Gross' request. Hawley's aides were not pleased, saying the subpoena amounted to legal harassment. They promised to fight it.

Pearson said that a judge had never approved the subpoena and that "(t)he judicial process does not exist to harass public servants or further the political ambitions of litigants.

"It is a well-established principle of discovery that the deposition of a high-level public official is generally impermissible," Pearson argued in his Thursday filing. He cited several cases in which subpoenas were quashed in similar instances.

Gross said that such an argument would be valid if he could obtain the information he sought from the attorney general's office, not the attorney general himself. In this case, Gross said, the only person who knows the information he seeks is Hawley himself.

"Let's say I subpoena Josh Hawley, and I really wanted to know something about something his office did," Gross said. "That's fine, they could say, 'Well actually, he's really busy, he's a senator. …

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