Breaking News: Former Rep. Renzi Loses Appeal on Speech or Debate Clause Grounds in Ninth Circuit

I have posted the opinion in United States v. Renzi at this link.  There is also an unpublished portion of the opinion (which I have not seen), reinstating the racketeering act dismissed by the district court.

Here is the introduction:

Former Arizona Congressman Richard G. Renzi seeks to invoke the Speech or Debate Clause to preclude his prosecution for allegedly using his public office to benefit himself rather than his constituents. The indictment against him alleges that Renzi offered two private parties a quid pro quo deal. If they would buy private land owned by a former business partner—a sale that would generate enough cash to repay a debt owed to Renzi—the Congressman promised to support future public land exchange legislation favorable to each.

Renzi denies the charges against him, but argues on interlocutory appeal that he is protected by the Clause from even the burden of defending himself. Specifically, he claims that the public corruption charges against him amount to prosecution on account of his privileged “legislative acts”; that “legislative act” evidence was improperly presented to the grand jury; that the United States must show that its investigation did not benefit from its review of “legislative act” evidence; and that the district court erred by declining to wholly suppress all of the evidence against him relating to his illicit “negotiations.”

We cannot agree. We recognize, as we must, that the Speech or Debate Clause is a privilege that “has enabled reckless men to slander and even destroy others with impunity.” United States v. Brewster, 408 U.S. 501, 516 (1972). But the Supreme Court has made equally clear that the Speech or Debate Clause does not “make Members of Congress supercitizens, immune from criminal responsibility.” Id. Because we cling to “the precise words” of the Court’s own Speech or Debate jurisprudence and “the sense of  those cases, fairly read,” id., we conclude that Renzi’s actions fall beyond the Clause’s protections. We therefore deny Renzi the relief he seeks.

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