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Tag: speech or debate clause

Constitutional Clause Causing Headaches for Justice Department in Probes on Capitol Hill

exRep. Jefferson at sentencing in 2009 /Sketch by Art Lien/NBC News

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A 2007 court ruling saying FBI agents violated the Constitution when they raided the Congressional office of Rep. William J. Jefferson in 2006, appears to be haunting the Justice Department.

Washington Post reporters Jerry Markon and R. Jeffrey Smith report that the 2007 ruling, based on the “speech or debate”clause ,   “has helped derail or slow several recent corruption investigations of lawmakers, according to court documents and sources.” The clause protects members of Congress who are conducting official business from some scrutiny or intrusion from the Justice Department.

Ex-Rep. John Doolittle

The Post reports that since the ruling “speech or debate challenges have killed an investigation of former representative Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), hampered probes of Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.) and former representative John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), and slowed a pending corruption case against former representative Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), sources familiar with those inquiries said.”

In a 3 to 0 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. ruled that FBI agents went too far in searching Jefferson’s office in May 2006 when they viewed paper documents before giving Jefferson an opportunity to say whether the material was connected to legislative activity, and consequently protected by the “speech or debate” clause. Jefferson lost his bid for re-election in 2008.

And though he won a big pre-trial legal battle over the search of his office,  he went on to get convicted on 11 of 16 public corruption counts and was sentenced in Alexandria, Va. to 13 years in prison. He remains free pending an appeal.

To read more click here.

Ex-Rep. Jefferson Takes His Constitutional Appeal to the Supreme Court

It has been 3 1/2 years since the FBI raided ex-Rep. William Jefferson’s homes on Capitol Hill and in New Orleans and that man has still not gone to trial. Could this latest move delay the May 26th trial?

By Bruce Alpert
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Ex-Rep. William Jefferson while still in office

Ex-Rep. William Jefferson while still in office

WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson’s attorneys are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision rejecting arguments that prosecutors improperly presented information about his legislative duties to a grand jury in violation of a constitutional separation of powers clause.

In a request filed late Wednesday and posted on the court’s Web this morning, Jefferson wants 14 of the 16 corruption charges he faces at a May 26 trial dropped.

The defense attorneys said the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia, in rejecting their appeal, not only failed to take note of grand jury testimony about his role in helping pass an African trade bill – a clear violation they said of the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause – but refused to review unreleased grand jury testimony to determine if other violations occurred.

“The Speech or Debate Clause is a unique constitutional provision that creates an absolute privilege for legislative activities within its scope,” Jefferson’s attorneys said. “It protects legislators not only from conviction based on legislative acts, but also from having to defend themselves as a result of those acts.”
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