The resolution of the latest case against tax-hater Douglas Bruce has been portrayed by the press as a mixed bag. True, Bruce wasn't held in contempt for not testifying in a lawsuit involving Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101 -- but the judge ordered him to testify about his possible association with the measures. David Lane, Bruce's attorney, sees things differently, though.
"This was a contempt proceeding. They wanted him in jail," Lane emphasizes. "And not only did they not get that, but they found him not to be in contempt. So that was a win."
As for the media's take, Lane points to the article on the subject in the Denver Post. "People read it and take the attitude of 'There was no contempt, but look what he's got to do,'" he says.
Of course, Bruce has made a career of not doing things expected of him -- and Lane believes he shouldn't have to in this instance, either.
To explain: Attorney Mark Grueskin, recently interviewed by Westword about Clear the Bench Colorado's campaign to toss out several Supreme Court justices, filed a lawsuit against the folks allegedly behind 60-61-101, charging that they hadn't followed state rules. Along the way, Bruce was subpoenaed under the theory that he'd provided undeclared support for the initiative backers -- but he wasn't formally served, despite a reported thirty attempts to do so, and never testified.
In the end, Judge Brian Whitney rejected the argument that Bruce should be held in contempt of court for allegedly dodging the subpoena; he said he'd been out of town. But he also ordered Bruce to testify in Grueskin's suit -- a prospect that Lane rejects as onerous.
"They may suspect that Doug Bruce contributed to these campaigns," he points out, "but Doug Bruce is under no obligation to disclose anything about who he gives money to, who he supports and who he doesn't support. If the guys running the ballot initiative got something from Doug Bruce and they're obligated to disclose, that's their problem. But should a citizen be compelled to answer a question regarding their politics? Because that's the issue.
"Mark Grueskin is constantly being hired by people to go after the right-wing crowd that keeps putting anti-tax initiatives on the ballot, and believe it or not, he believes Doug Bruce may have had something to do with it. He thinks the proponents of the ballot initiative may or may not have declared things Grueskin believes they got from him, like free rent. So he wants to depose Doug Bruce -- but Doug Bruce isn't a party to this case. And there's something that just smacks of Big Brother when citizens are forced by a court process to divulge their political beliefs."
In Lane's view, the precedent preventing such a mandate can be found in 1958's NAACP v. Alabama.
"Alabama wanted the roster of everybody who was a member of the NAACP," he explains. "And the NAACP said, 'We have a First Amendment right of association. You have no right to go fishing through our files to see who our membership consists of.' And you have the same sort of thing here."
With that in mind, Lane continues, "I'd like to file a motion to quash the deposition on First Amendment grounds, based on those considerations."
He'll have to act fast. Judge Whitney "ordered that the deposition has to be completed within three weeks. So I have to call Grueskin and agree on a deposition date, and then file a motion to quash before then."
Such an action won't "stop Grueskin from dealing with the proponents of the anti-tax initiatives," he believes. "If they've got proof they didn't do what they were supposed to do, he can go ahead. But you can't ask citizens to come in and give you all their evidence when it means they have to disclose who they supported politically, who they contributed to, and things of this nature -- which is what the deposition is going to be all about."
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