Richard Blumenthal. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ.)
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D. Conn., is fighting a subpoena that would force him to give deposition testimony and turn over documents in a labor dispute between health care management companies and unions.
Blumenthal isn’t directly involved in the labor dispute, but according to court papers he filed earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, he has publicly supported the unions. The health care companies accused the unions of providing misleading information to influence public officials, and subpoenaed Blumenthal to find out what he was told.
Blumenthal’s lawyers in the Senate argue the subpoena is too broad and would violate a constitutional protection afforded to members of Congress and their staff known as the speech-or-debate clause. The protection shields members from being forced to turn over information or testify about their legislative activities.
“Internal deliberations and communications within the senator’s office and information acquired by that office regarding the labor dispute and its effect on healthcare employment, labor relations, and elder care in Connecticut are matters within the legislative sphere that are privileged under the clause,” Senate Legal Counsel Morgan Frankel wrote in the motion to quash filed April 15.
The underlying litigation is playing out in a New Jersey federal district court. The plaintiffs, Care One Management LLC and Healthbridge Management LLC, which own and manage assisted-living facilities in Connecticut, accused the unions of violating federal racketeering laws and actively trying to hurt the plaintiffs’ businesses.
Blumenthal wasn’t named in the lawsuit, but the health care management companies referenced “elected officials in the State of Connecticut” the unions allegedly tried to influence.
According to Blumenthal’s lawyers, he agreed to turn over written communications between his office and the unions concerning the labor dispute. But he’s against providing additional documents the plaintiffs subpoenaed, including internal communications and document drafts, and giving deposition testimony.
Senate counsel argued the health care companies were on a “fishing expedition” based solely on Blumenthal’s support for the unions. They said the information was also privileged under the speech-or-debate clause because it directly related to Blumenthal’s legislative activities.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.