A federal appeals court has turned down Arizona GOP senate candidate Kelli Ward’s attempt to block a House committee subpoena for her phone records in connection with an investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol building and other events related to the 2020 presidential election.
A divided panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2-1, to deny Ward’s request for an order preventing telephone carrier T-Mobile from complying with the subpoena issued by the House select committee probing Jan. 6.
Ward argued that the subpoena violates her First Amendment rights by intruding on her activities as chairperson of the Arizona Republican Party, but the order issued Saturday by the appeals court panel’s majority said those concerns weren’t serious enough to keep the House from accessing details about her calls.
“The investigation, after all, is not about Ward’s politics; it is about her involvement in the events leading up to the January 6 attack, and it seeks to uncover those with whom she communicated in connection with those events. That some of the people with whom Ward communicated may be members of a political party does not establish that the subpoena is likely to reveal ‘sensitive information about [the party’s] members and supporters,’” wrote Judges Barry Silverman, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Eric Miller, appointed by President Donald Trump.
The third member of the panel, Judge Sandra Ikuta, dissented and said she would have granted Ward’s request to block the subpoena.
“The communications at issue here between members of a political party about an election implicate a core associational right protected by the First Amendment,” wrote Ikuta, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
“Even assuming that the government’s interest in investigating the events of January 6, 2021, is sufficiently important, the Committee has not provided any evidence or plausible reason to believe that Ward’s contacts (whether political associates, family, or friends) were involved in the events of January 6 or explain why information about her communications has any bearing on the Committee’s investigation,” Ikuta added in her dissent, which ran to 10 pages — two more than the majority’s order.
Ward’s lawyer, Alexander Kolodin, expressed disappointment in the court’s ruling.
“I am skeptical of the majority’s reasoning that ‘The investigation, after all, is not about Ward’s politics,’” Kolodin told POLITICO via email. “But Judge Ikuta’s dissent is a fiery defense of the first amendment in an age that seems to have forgotten it. As long as judges like her exist, there is still hope for America.”
Last month, Arizona-based U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa, an appointee of President Barack Obama, tossed out Ward’s initial request for an injunction to block the subpoena.
However, on Tuesday, the 9th Circuit panel temporarily halted the subpoena. The court’s order Saturday lifted that temporary stay.
Ward could seek relief from a larger 9th Circuit panel or from the Supreme Court. Kolodin did not immediately respond to questions about whether she plans to take such steps.
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