Monday, July 13, 2009

Washington Federal Appeals Court expands lawmaker protection

In an opinion unsealed last Thursday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that statements made by politicians during congressional ethics committee investigations can't be used against them in further criminal actions.

The case involved former Representative Tom Feeney and a golfing trip he made to Scotland, paid for by Jack Abramoff. The House of Representatives Ethics Committee, according to an Associate Press article, Friday, said in 2007 that the trip violated House rules and Feeney had agreed to repay the Treasury Department the $5,643 the trip purportedly cost. Subsequent to the House's investigation, the Justice Department began an investigation into statements that Feeney had made to the House committee. "The opinion, which does not name Feeney but described elements of his case, concluded statements made to the ethics committee are excluded from criminal investigations by the U.S. Constitution, in the so-called 'Speech or Debate Clause,' which says speech or debate in Congress 'shall not be questioned in any other place.'"

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