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The U.S. Senate has taken the rare step of letting one of its employees offer testimony, this time in a pair of federal lawsuits in Arizona about when and where members of the public can distribute flyers on government property. The dispute began in November 2009, when according to court papers, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared at a “town hall” event in Mojave County in the northwest part of the state. A local couple, Gianluca Zanna and Bridget Langston-Zanna, attended the event at the Mohave County Administrative Building and began distributing flyers about McCain’s record. The Zannas were asked to leave the building — something that they and county officials agree on — but the two sides began debating in the local newspaper and elsewhere about the right to distribute materials on government property. A few months later, the county adopted a policy restricting leafleting and other political activities. The Zannas and another man, Jim Kanelos, who says the policy is keeping him from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution and political pamphlets, have sued. They say the policy violates the First Amendment because, as Kanelos’ amended complaint says, “it is an impermissible restriction on speech in a public forum.” County officials have responded with a blanket denial, and the two cases are in discovery. According to a Senate resolution, the county has requested that one of McCain’s staff members, Gina Gormley, submit a declaration in the two cases. The House and Senate guard access to their staffs vigorously under the constitutional protection afforded to “speech or debate,” but the Senate is making an exception here. The resolution, which authorizes Gormley to testify in the cases except about privileged matters, passed on Friday. Lawyers in the case did not return calls on Monday requesting comment about Gormley’s planned testimony. Eileen GilBride and Georgia Staton, partners at Jones Skelton & Hochuli in Phoenix, represent the county. Hector Diaz, a partner at Quarles & Brady in Phoenix, represents Kanelos, and Vicki Lopez of Marc J. Victor P.C. in Chandler, Ariz., represents the Zannas. Here’s the text of the resolution, complete with an assertion of “the privileges of the Senate”: “Whereas, in the cases of Kanelos v. County of Mohave, et al., Civ. No. 10-8099 (D. Ariz.) and Zanna, et al. v. Mohave County, et al., Civ. No. 10-8149 (D. Ariz.), pending in federal district court in Arizona, the defendants have requested that a declaration be submitted by Gina Gormley, an employee of Senator John McCain; “Whereas, by the privileges of the Senate of the United States and Rule XI of the Standing Rules of the Senate, no evidence under the control or in the possession of the Senate may, by the judicial or administrative process, be taken from such control or possession but by permission of the Senate; and “Whereas, when it appears that evidence under the control or in the possession of the Senate may promote the administration of justice, the Senate will take such action as will promote the ends of justice consistent with the privileges of the Senate: Now, therefore, be it “Resolved, that Gina Gormley is authorized to testify in the cases of Kanelos v. County of Mohave, et al. and Zanna, et al. v. Mohave County et al., except concerning matters for which a privilege should be asserted.” David Ingram can be contacted at [email protected].

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