Douglas Bruce 60-61-101 court appearance: Is he stonewalling Dr. Evil or political bogeyman?

Memo to process servers: The best place to find Douglas Bruce over the next few days is the Denver courtroom of Judge Brian Whitney. That's where Bruce sat this morning, listening to process servers explain their attempts to deliver subpoenas to the anti-tax activist -- part of a larger struggle that's put three much-reviled tax-slashing proposals on the ballot and left Bruce facing a contempt hearing.

The high-stakes battle between Bruce and the Colorado Attorney General's Office revolves around Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, which opponents claim will wreck the state's economy. Business and lobbying groups have raised millions to fight the measures, and in June an administrative law judge ruled that Bruce, while not officially listed as a proponent of the ballot issues, was deeply involved in behind-the-scenes efforts to promote 60-61-101.

But efforts to get Bruce to testify about the financing of the campaign have so far been unsuccessful, leading to the current contempt proceeding. Bruce insists he was never properly served with a subpoena in an administrative hearing and that the AG's current prosecution of him is politically motivated.

Bruce says he was out of town while the process servers were trying 29 times unsuccessfully to serve him. He has proof, he adds, in the form of digitally dated photos of his trip, but he doesn't see why he should have to produce them. "There's no law that requires a private individual to report his personal activities on any campaign," he says.

In court, first assistant attorney general John Lizza has complained of the need to depose Bruce as soon as possible in order to get information about the 60-61-101 campaign to the voters before the election. "The clock is ticking," he told Judge Whitney. "We need to move this thing forward."

The reason for expedience, says AG spokesman Mike Saccone, is for the sake of the electorate. But Bruce sees a clear political objective: "They're saying that the purpose of the contempt hearing is to help the opposition and make me into a bogeyman in order to influence the election."

Attorney General Suthers has, in fact, come out in opposition to 60-61-101. Last week, on the same day Bruce was in court complaining about his alleged persecution, Suthers was at an event in Colorado Springs denouncing the ballot measures as "fiscal anarchy."

Saccone says that Suthers's own views on the measures have nothing to do with the contempt case. "Our only intent is to have the subpoenas enforced," he says.

Yet the case continues to be mired in procedural issues, even as it lurches toward a presentation of evidence concerning whether Bruce was or wasn't served. Bruce attorney David Lane has tried to get Whitney to recuse himself (denied) and asked for continuances; Lizza has countered by reminding the judge of that ticking clock.

Lane insists the case comes down to the fact that the other side can't show Bruce was ever handed a subpoena for a deposition last April. His failure to appear at that event led to Whitney issuing a contempt citation that states Bruce disregarded a subpoena he never got. "This case should be dismissed, based on that fact," he told Whitney.

But the judge wasn't convinced. The arguments continue. The witnesses -- who were subpoenaed to show up and talk about the subpoenas they did or didn't hand Bruce -- wait their turn. And the clock keeps ticking.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast