State Senator J. D. Mesnard and Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Scott Bales speaking with supporters at the Arizona State Capitol in 2019./ Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
By Camryn Sanchez |Arizona Capitol Times
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled on November 18 that Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, has legislative privilege and doesn’t have to answer questions about conversations he had with Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, while he was speaker of the House and the expulsion of then-Rep. Don Shooter was pending.
Judge Sally Duncan’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit Ugenti-Rita filed against Shooter in 2018 and counter-claim Shooter filed against her. Ugenti-Rita’s claims are in connection with Shooter’s sexual harassment of her, and Shooter accuses her of spreading malicious lies and defaming him when she publicly accused him of sexual harassment.
Attorney Jennifer Rebholz, who represents Shooter, said in oral arguments that the conversations they want to ask Mesnard about do not refer to legislation, and therefore should not be covered under legislative privilege, which Mesnard has invoked to avoid answering dozens of questions.
Mesnard’s attorney Steve Tully said that the information was irrelevant.
“It’s an attempt to get leverage. Shooter is trying to get leverage over Ms. Ugenti-Rita and force her to dismiss her claim,” Tully said.