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Arizona court splits ruling on ex-lawmaker’s defamation case

June 30, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit filed by a former legislator who was expelled by the state House in 2018 for sexual harassment but ruled that a remaining part of the case can move forward.

The ruling came in ex-Rep. Don Shooter’s lawsuit against former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, a fellow Republican who currently is a state senator.

The Supreme Court ruled that Mesnard has legislative immunity against the part of Shooter’s lawsuit alleging Shooter was defamed by Mesnard’s release of a investigatory report but that Mesnard doesn’t necessarily have immunity for allegedly defaming Shooter in a news release.

The remaining part of the case now goes back to a trial court to consider whether Mesnard was authorized to issue the news release and whether “exercising such authority constituted a legislative function subject to absolute immunity,” the court stated.

Accused by a female legislator of sexual harassment, Shooter denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign.

Four justices either authored or concurred in the court’s opinion and a five agreed with its result. Two other current or former justices recused themselves from the cases.