Friday, February 20, 2009

Jefferson Files for Cert., Argues Speech and Debate Protection

William J. Jefferson, the former Louisiana Congressman indicted on 16 counts in his corruption case in the Eastern District of Virginia, asked the Supreme Court this week to reverse a Fourth Circuit decision refusing to dismiss his indictment because it was allegedly based on material that would violate the Speech and Debate Clause.  I previously posted on the Fourth Circuit ruling (with a link to the ruling) here; Jefferson's cert. petition is here.  Many thanks to Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog for posting this.

Jefferson argues that the Fourth Circuit was out of step with other circuits that have ruled on the question.  He claims that the reasoning (even if not the holdings) in U.S. v. Rostenkowski (D.C. Cir. 1995) and U.S. v. Helstoski (3d Cir. 1980) supports his claim that his indictment based on material protected by the Speech and Debate Clause was invalid.  (The Fourth Circuit ruled in footnote 8 that these cases held only that a pervasive violation of the Speech and Debate Clause might invalidate an indictment, but Jefferson made no such claim here.)  Jefferson also claimed that Costello v. U.S. (1956) missed the mark, because it dealt with grand jury material that was hearsay, not material privileged under the Speech and Debate Clause.  (The Fourth Circuit relied upon Costello to conclude that "a facially valid indictment is not subject to dismissal simply because the grand jury may have considered improper evidence, or because it was presented with information or evidence that may contravene a constitutional privilege.")


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