PHOENIX — A federal judge threw out Don Shooter’s claim his civil rights were violated by an investigation that resulted in his ouster last year from the Arizona House of Representatives for sexual harassment.
Judge Dominic Lanza, ruling late Friday, said Shooter’s claim was based on his allegation that J.D. Mesnard, former House speaker, and Kirk Adams, former chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey, acted improperly, leading to his expulsion.
But the judge said there is no clearly settled law that legislators have a right to ask a federal court to intercede in matters involving their removal.
That also means Mesnard and Adams are entitled to qualified immunity for any actions they say they took in their official capacity, Lanza said.
The judge had some criticism for former Attorney General Tom Horne, who is representing Shooter.
Lanza said he specifically asked Horne during a hearing last week to present any legal precedent showing that the proceedings used by the House in ousting Shooter — in this case, requiring a two-thirds vote — were unconstitutional.
The judge said Horne did not provide an answer but instead urged the court to consider “the facts” alleged in the complaint.
“This is not how qualified immunity works,” Lanza wrote.
Friday’s ruling does not take either Mesnard, now a state senator, or Adams, who quit state government last December, off the legal hook.
Lanza dealt only with the federal civil rights claim over which he has jurisdiction.
He said the other claims made by Shooter, including wrongful termination, defamation and false light invasion of privacy, need to be resolved in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The former Yuma lawmaker was expelled last year following a 56-3 vote of the House after a report addressed allegations he had engaged in sexual harassment and other inappropriate conduct.