A federal judge has rejected the Justice Department’s request for information from a conservative advocacy group over its lobbying in support of an Alabama ban on gender transitioning treatment for youth.
Judge Liles Burke of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama said the government’s request was far-reaching.
“The subpoenas, as written, are overly broad and unduly burdensome,” Judge Burke, a Trump appointee, wrote in his seven-page order on Monday. “Considering the relevance (or lack thereof) of the requested material, the burden of production, the nonparties’ resources, and the Government’s own conduct, the Court finds that the subpoenas exceed the scope of discovery.”
The judge noted that the Justice Department can file a new subpoena that is more narrow in its demands.
The organization, Eagle Forum of Alabama, had called the subpoena “unprecedented” — noting that the group is not a party to a transgender-rights lawsuit seeking to overturn the Alabama law.
Transgender children and their parents sued the state of Alabama to challenge the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which was passed this year to make it a crime to medically assist youth in gender transitioning.
The plaintiffs claim that the law prohibits parents from seeking medical care for their children.
The Justice Department has sought to intervene in the litigation and get records from Eagle Forum of Alabama about its lobbying and outreach in favor of the law.
The subpoena sought several years of records from the organization, but lawyers for Eagle Forum of Alabama argued the court should dismiss the DOJ’s requests because handing over the documents would run afoul of First Amendment rights.
Kristen Ullman, president of the conservative organization Eagle Forum, said Monday’s decision was a win for the advocacy group and the freedom of speech.
“We successfully defended the rights of private citizens and non-profits to engage in the legislative process when their viewpoint differs from that of the government,” Ms. Ullman said. “DOJ ardently fought to harass a volunteer group of concerned citizens and should take their loss today as a reminder they have awakened a sleeping giant. The Court made clear that the government’s attempt to silence voices with which it disagrees by demanding irrelevant materials will not be allowed.”
A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act was set to take effect in May but was blocked, in part, by an injunction while the lawsuit is pending.