Buffalo News reports on the Speech or Debate Clause issue in Rep. Chris Collins’s insider trading trial.
17-1368 SCARNETI, JOSEPH B. V. AGRE, LOUIS, ET AL. The appeal is dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Here were the questions presented in the jurisdictional statement:
1. Did the lower court err in holding that the “speech or debate” privilege is a qualified privilege when considered in connection with civil redistricting litigation, and that state legislators must disclose information regarding the crafting and drafting of redistricting legislation in discovery in such litigation?
2. If the “speech or debate” privilege is qualified when considered in connection with civil redistricting litigation, to what extent should that qualified privilege protect against the questioning of state legislators, and the disclosure of documents possessed by state legislators during discovery in such litigation?
Putting aside whether perjury could be proven against AG Sessions, there’s another possible hurdle: the Speech or Debate Clause, which gives members of Congress immunity from criminal prosecution for certain legislative acts, for example a speech on the Senate floor.
Would a sitting Senator testifying as an executive nominee get the benefit of the Speech or Debate Clause. Josh Chafetz suggests yes, though I’d like to see more analysis.
Josh Gerstein for Politico:
Sen. Bob Menendez is asking the Supreme Court to consider his argument that federal bribery charges he is facing impermissibly intrude into a legislative activity protected by the Constitution’s speech-or-debate clause.
In a petition submitted to the high court this week, attorneys for the New Jersey Democrat argue that a federal appeals court improperly insisted that he needed to prove his motives were “pure” when he took actions that benefited friend, campaign donor and ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
Notable that Paul Clement is on the brief, along with Abbe Lowell.
Howard with the stories and the brief.
Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey may appeal his indictment on corruption charges, based partly on his argument that some of the charges stem from routine legislative work protected by the Constitution.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled on Friday that Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, may also appeal over his defense’s argument regarding separation of powers. His lawyers argued it would be up to the Senate, not the courts, to punish any violations over disclosure rules stemming from the allegation that Mr. Menendez did not include flights on a co-defendant’s plane on a Senate financial disclosure report.
Mr. Menendez is charged with accepting campaign donations and gifts in exchange for political influence. He has pleaded not guilty and has said his actions were not specifically to benefit a co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Dr. Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, has also pleaded not guilty.
Lawyers for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez argued in U.S. District Court in Newark that his actions on behalf of Dr. Salomon Melgen concerned legitimate policy questions and were not favors for a friend and campaign donor.
In filings submitted late Thursday, Menendez’s lawyers said his actions were protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate clause,” which prevent lawmakers from being prosecuted for their legislative activities.
“The indictment violates the Speech or Debate Clause by charging that Senator Menendez took various legislative acts and alleging that Senator Menendez received various gifts, and leaving the prosecution to ask the jury to infer that there must have been some sort of corrupt agreement linking the gifts with those acts,” the senator’s lawyers wrote.
This should be interesting.
Even if these claims ultimately fail (which they likely will), it will likely buy the Senator some significant time before potential incarceration.
The doctrinal fine points are open to be debate, but it is hard to escape the impression that Court believes readily in the failures of the democratic process and the part played in this breakdown by self-interested legislators. And it won’t overlook wrongdoing or allow the legislator’s constitutional defenses–perhaps also judged to be tainted by self-interest?–to get in the way.
The other two rescheduled cases involve the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution. The first petitioner is former Representative Richard Renzi, who was charged with extorting private investors to buy land owned by his friend and business partner in exchange for a promise to support federal land-exchange legislation. In an outstanding petition filed in Renzi v. United States, 14-1082, Renzi asks whether the Speech or Debate Clause protects (1) legislative fact-finding by a member of Congress and (2) the actions of a member of Congress in developing, evaluating and drafting legislation prior to the formal introduction of a bill. Renzi also asks (3) whether a member of Congress can waive the protections of the Speech or Debate Clause only by explicitly and unequivocally renouncing them. His co-defendant, James W. Sandlin, a private citizen, argues inSandlin v. United States, 14-1083, that he should benefit if Renzi wins as they were tried together using the same evidence.