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AG: Constitution allows Sen. Vukmir to invoke immunity from civil lawsuits

Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).
Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin's attorney general says state legislators are not above the law -- but the Constitution does let them invoke immunity from civil lawsuits against them. 

J.B. Van Hollen said Tuesday that the Constitution gives him no choice but to represent state senator and fellow Republican Leah Vukmir. 

The Wauwatosa lawmaker was sued by the Center for Media and Democracy, claiming she refused to give that group documents she obtained at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council. 

The Justice Department's decision to defend Vukmir angered open government advocates.

According to Van Hollen, Vukmir's position is that she fully complied with the Open Records Law -- and she claims executive immunity from prosecution for as long as she's in office. The AG said Vukmir's case is different from that of Senate Democrat Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, who contended he did not have to release names of people who contacted his office about the 2011 law which virtually ended most public union bargaining. 

Van Hollen said lawmakers must respond to public record requests as soon as possible -- but if they sued to compel the disclosure, they can invoke their constitutional protection from civil process.

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