Federal Court Dismisses Former Arizona Lawmaker’s Lawsuit Against State Legislature for Wrongful Expulsion over Sexual Harassment Claims


A federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed by former State Representative Donald Shooter claiming that his expulsion from the legislature due to sexual harassment allegations was conspired. Circuit Court Judge Daniel Collins issued the ruling last Thursday in the case, Donald Shooter v. State of Arizona, et al.

Shooter alleged that former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and current state senator, J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), and Governor Doug Ducey’s former chief of staff, Kirk Adams, orchestrated his expulsion from the legislature. He claimed that he was targeted while serving as the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman after he attempted to investigate further the possibility that the state was engaging in no-bid contracts for technology purchases. Due to this, Shooter asserted that he was deprived of equal opportunity and due process. Collins dismissed the case for a failure to state a claim: the judge found no plausible inference of sex discrimination, and opined that no due process claim could be present because Mesnard and Adams were entitled to qualified immunity.

In 2018, the Arizona House expelled Shooter in a near-unanimous vote: 56-3. The house conducted an independent investigation into Shooter’s behavior after State Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) accused him of sexual harassment. Shooter filed his lawsuit against the state in 2019.

Shooter and Mesnard were also engaged in another legal battle. Shooter filed a defamation lawsuit against Mesnard, in Mesnard v. Campagnolo. He claimed that the sexual harassment allegations against him in a publicized legislative investigative report and a press release were defamatory. About one month ago, the Arizona Supreme Court partially dismissed the case. The court ruled that state lawmakers have immunity when it comes to legislative investigative reports. However, Vice Chief Justice  Ann Timmer ruled that this immunity doesn’t extend to press releases.

“[A] legislator who issues a news release does not perform a legislative function but instead engages in a political act,” wrote Timmer.

Mesnard may face defamation charges for his press release due to the ruling.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Don Shooter” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 3.0.





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