Rhode Island governor continues efforts to avoid subpoenas in toll lawsuit

January 5, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Gov. Gina Raimondo and two more state officials are pulling out all the stops to prevent testifying in the American Trucking Association’s truck-only toll lawsuit.

On Dec. 28, ATA filed a motion to dismiss a case before the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Gov. Raimondo, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Rep. Stephen Ucci are challenging the district court’s ruling denying their motion to quash subpoenas.

In its motion to dismiss, ATA argues that the appellate court does not have jurisdiction over denial of motions to quash except in an extremely limited set of circumstances. Those circumstances, ATA contends, do not exist in this case.

In the event the appellate panel decides to hear the case, ATA is pleading for the court to expedite the schedule for briefings and oral arguments. Truckers continue to pay a toll that is allegedly unconstitutional while the lawsuit is pending.

“Plaintiffs suffer irreparable injury every day that they are forced to make these unconstitutional payments, which they will be unable to recover even if they ultimately prevail on the merits of the suit,” ATA states in its motion. “Yet defendants’ litigation tactics—which already have necessitated an appeal to this court—have caused excessive delay in the resolution of the case.”

Subpoenas for Raimondo and other state officials were initially submitted last July.

They required Raimondo to appear for a deposition by Sept. 4. However, the governor attempted to quash those subpoenas by invoking government privilege, delaying any deposition.

In October, the district court denied that motion. Raimondo attempted to argue that government privileges are absolute. However, the court ruled those privileges are qualified and do not apply in this case. Furthermore, the court ruled that adhering to the subpoenas will not cause an undue burden. Raimondo also tried to argue that subpoenas will get in the way as her role as governor during a pandemic.

Raimondo’s latest attempt to avoid providing testimony is only the most recent stall effort on part of Rhode Island. Filed in July 2018, Rhode Island has made several attempts to dismiss the case or avoid subpoenas for high-ranking state officials, all of which have been denied either at the district court or appellate court level. LL