D.D.C.: J6 Committee’s subpoena to RNC not unreasonably overbroad

J6 Committee’s subpoena for records to the RNC does not violate the Fourth Amendment; it’s within Congress’s power. Republican National Committee v. Pelosi, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78501 (D.D.C. May 1, 2022):

The RNC also argues that the subpoena violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures because its breadth “exceeds any lawfully authorized purpose” of the Select Committee. See ECF No. 6 ¶¶ 91–102; ECF No. 8-1 at 22–26. The parties dispute whether the RNC has a Fourth Amendment interest in the Salesforce-held information that the subpoena demands. Compare ECF No. 17 at 39, with ECF No. 21 at 18–22. Even assuming the RNC retains such an interest, the subpoena does not violate the RNC’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The leading Supreme Court case on Fourth Amendment challenges to legislative subpoenas (and one of the “few federal cases” on point) is McPhaul, 364 U.S. 372. See 1 Bus. & Com. Litig. in Fed. Cts. § 6:15 (Robert L. Haig, Ed., 5th ed. 2021 update). In McPhaul, a House committee issued to the executive secretary of the Civil Rights Congress a subpoena that demanded production of “all records, correspondence[,] and memoranda pertaining to the organization of, the affiliation with other organizations[,] and all monies received or expended by the Civil Rights Congress.” See 364 U.S. at 374. The subpoena’s recipient argued that it was “so broad as to constitute an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” Id. at 382. The Supreme Court recognized that the subpoena was “broad,” but it reasoned that the committee’s inquiry was a “relatively broad one” and thus the “permissible scope of materials that could reasonably be sought was necessarily equally broad.” See id. And it ultimately held that the subpoena was not so broad “such as to violate the Fourth Amendment.” Id. at 383.

So too here. As discussed above, the subpoena demands documents within the permissible scope of materials that the Select Committee may seek in its investigation. Also as discussed above, the information at issue that could shed some light on the RNC’s political strategy is no more sensitive than the McPhaul subpoena’s demands for information about the Civil Rights Congress’s “organization” and affiliates. Moreover, in this case, unlike in McPhaul, the subpoena is time-limited to a few months of records. Thus, because the subpoena is “not more sweeping” than the one “sustained against challenge[]” in McPhaul, the Court “cannot say that the breadth of the subpoena [is] such as to violate the Fourth Amendment.” See McPhaul, 364 U.S. at 383.

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