November 18, 2008
DC Circuit Hears Defamation Case Against Congressman Murtha
Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in the defamation case against Representative John Murtha (D-Pa) for statements he made concerning Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich's role in the deaths of Iraqi civilians. Wuterich sued Murtha for defamation and sought to depose Murtha regarding the statements. Although Murtha asserted congressional immunity, the district court rejected his argument and ordered Murtha's deposition. Murtha, however, sought interlocutory review by the DC Circuit. The three-judge panel included Judges Judith Rogers, Karen LeCraft Henderson and Harry Edwards.
Mike Scarcella at The BLT reports that Judge Edwards appeared leery of the court's jurisdiction in the case:
Edwards said the court does not generally take interlocutory review on discovery matters “especially when they are in a preliminary posture like this.” The government, Edwards said, has a “real problem” in trying to block discovery.
According to Susan Crabtree at the Hill, Judge Henderson questioned how congressional immunity would apply in this case:
“Who is his master?” Henderson asked. “Do you ever serve the interests of your constituents by making a derogatory comment to the media?”
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