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Archive of posts filed under the Speech or Debate category.

Speech or Debate issues in the Menendez investigation

According to a sealed opinion inadvertently and briefly posted on the Third Circuit’s website, two aides to Senator Robert Menendez are refusing to answer certain grand jury questions based on the Speech or Debate privilege. The opinion is no longer available online, but this New Jersey Law Journal article summarizes the issue before the court. [...]

The Speech or Debate Clause and Protection of Informal Information Gathering

A couple months ago we discussed the question of whether informal information gathering is a legislative activity protected by the Speech or Debate Clause. As I noted at the time, there is case law suggesting that some informal information gathering is protected, but significant uncertainty as to how one defines the type of information gathering [...]

Senator Ervin on Congressional Discipline and Speech or Debate

I have previously explained that the Speech or Debate Clause does not protect members from discipline by their legislative body, up to and including expulsion. Since the subject arose again in the last couple of days (in the course of a Glenn Greenwald initiated thread on Twitter), it may be worth adverting to Senator Ervin’s [...]

Renzi Loses Coming and Going on Speech or Debate

As the Ninth Circuit helpfully explained yesterday (hat tip: Zoe Tillman) in affirming former congressman Rick Renzi’s conviction on various corruption charges, “Congressmen may write the law, but they are not above the law.” In doing so, the panel rejected two Speech or Debate arguments Renzi raised on appeal. (For Renzi’s prior unsuccessful trip to [...]

Two lobbyists and a congressional staffer walk into a strip club called Privilege

This is surely the start of an awesome joke. Email me when you come up with the rest. Ok, I could have entitled this “D.C. Circuit issues mildly interesting decision on the Speech or Debate Privilege,” but then you wouldn’t be reading it, would you? Anyway, the court just issued this decision upholding the conviction [...]

Who is Responsible for the Employer Mandate Delay?

There were a couple of things missing from the testimony regarding the legal merits of the employer mandate delay at Wednesday’s Rules Committee hearing. The first was any reference to the legal authority claimed by the administration when it announced the initial delay of the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act. This is surprising [...]

The Legislator-Lobbyist Privilege?

We all know that there are certain confidential and intimate relationships that the law deems worthy of special protection. These include the clerical privilege (also known as priest-penitent), the attorney-client privilege, the doctor-patient privilege and of course the spousal privilege. The House of Representatives would like to expand that list to include the legislator-lobbyist relationship, [...]

SEC v. Ways and Means

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed suit against the House Committee on Ways and Means to enforce subpoenas seeking documents as well as the testimony of Brian Sutter, the committee’s staff director. The subpoenas were issued in the course of the SEC’s “investigating whether material nonpublic information [...]

Judge Bates Dismisses Rangel’s Lawsuit

Last week, as expected, Judge Bates dismissed Representative Rangel’s lawsuit against the Speaker, the Clerk and various former members and staff of the Ethics Committee. As the court notes in conclusion, “everything on Rangel’s wish list implicates insurmountable separation-of-powers barriers to the Court’s exercise of authority,” with the “most problematic [being] Rangel’s unprecedented view that [...]

Speech or Debate in Congressional Employment Litigation

In June a panel of the D.C. Circuit decided Howard v. Office of the CAO, in which a former congressional employee argued the Speech or Debate Clause did not bar her lawsuit challenging adverse employment action under the Congressional Accountability Act. If it stands, the case resolves a question left open by Fields v. Office [...]