Rhode Island governor must face subpoenas in toll lawsuit

December 8, 2020

Tyson Fisher


Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo and other high-ranking state officials must respond to the American Trucking Associations’ subpoenas after a federal court denied the governor’s request to appeal the decision.

On Monday, Dec. 7, a Rhode Island federal district court denied Raimondo’s motion for certification for appeal. In October, the court denied the governor’s motion to quash the subpoenas. Raimondo and other state officials moved to appeal that order. However, the court denied that motion as well.

In his latest order, Judge William E. Smith points out that three criteria must be met in order to certify an order for interlocutory appeal, which involves:

  1. A controlling question of the law.
  2. Substantial ground for difference of opinion.
  3. An immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.

According to Judge Smith, Raimondo’s motion meets “none of the factors.”

Considering the state admitted it would take only two weeks to satisfy the subpoenas, the court ruled that an appeal “would not save time for the court, nor would it save much time or expense for the state.”

Furthermore, ATA was denied preliminary injunction, i.e. tolls are still being collected. Accordingly, the case is on an accelerated trial calendar. If Raimondo’s appeal was granted, it would interrupt and substantially delay litigation.

Raimondo also argued that if the court allowed the subpoenas, the state would have to call at trial some or all of the 38 senators and 75 representatives who voted on the RhodeWorks Act. However, the court said that Raimondo, Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Rep. Stephen Ucci’s intent is more relevant than all of the other state officials, suggesting their testimony would be unnecessary.

Lastly, neither Mattiello nor Ucci will be members of the Rhode Island legislature after Jan. 4. Additionally, Raimondo may be in the running for a cabinet position under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Consequently, not only would an appeal not advance termination of the lawsuit, but if anything, allowing an appeal could hinder the discovery process necessary to the ultimate termination of the lawsuit.

Judge Smith’s order is the latest of a series of blows to the state. In addition to the court denying motions to quash subpoenas, both the district court and a federal appeals court have denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case. The case will proceed with Raimondo and other state officials adhering to ATA’s subpoenas. LL

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