Should Arizona Ditch Legislative Immunity For Lawmakers?
Following the resignation of former state Senator Scott Bundgaard over the scuffle he got into with his former girlfriend on the side of a Valley freeway -- and the legislative fiasco that followed -- Democratic state Senator Steve Gallardo says he plans to introduce a bill that would do away with legislative immunity for state lawmakers.
The Arizona constitution defines legislative immunity as follows: "Members of the legislature shall be privileged from arrest in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, and they shall not be subject to any civil process during the session of the legislature, nor for fifteen days next before the commencement of each session. (Article IV, part 2, section 6.)."
The idea is derived from centuries-old English common law designed to keep the British king from locking up members of Parliament who disagreed with him (sound like anyone you know?).
In its contemporary application, as explained in Arizona's Legislative Manual, "Legislative immunity not only protects a legislator from liability but also from having to testify or produce documents in court proceedings relating to legislative activity and prohibits actions seeking declaratory judgments, injunctions and other legal actions against legislators acting in the scope of their official duties."
According to Phoenix police, Bundgaard claimed legislative immunity the night of the fight, which is why he wasn't arrested. His former flame, Aubry Ballard, however, wasn't so lucky -- she spent that night in the slammer as Bundgaard was allowed to go home.
Bundgaard denies he ever claimed legislative immunity -- a claim many lawmakers in the former senator's own party think is BS.
Governor Jan Brewer also has benefited from legislative immunity -- in 1988, then-state Senator Brewer slammed her car into the back of a minivan after drinking what she claimed was two glasses of scotch.
Despite failing nearly every field sobriety test in the Department of Public Safety's arsenal, because the Legislature was in session at the time, Brewer claimed legislative immunity -- before authorities measured the future governor's blood alcohol content.
Get all the details of Jan's wild ride here.
Had the cops checked Governor Glug-Glug's BAC at the time of the accident, they could have used the results to potentially charge Brewer with DUI when the legislative session was over. They didn't, though, and Brewer caught an apparent pass -- all thanks to legislative immunity.
Given what seem to be abuses of the statute, we want to know what you think: should Arizona do away with legislative immunity?
Cast your vote below.
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