Patterico's Pontifications


Supreme Court Affirms Lets Stand DC Circuit Decision in Wm. Jefferson Case

Filed under: Constitutional Law,Law — DRJ @ 6:33 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The New York Times reports on today’s Supreme Court ruling let stand a DC Circuit decision holding FBI raids on the home and office of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) validly seized $90,000 in cash and computer hard drives. The Supreme Court also let stand the Circuit Court’s holding that the review of files in Jefferson’s Congressional files went too far:

“Without comment, the justices declined to review a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which concluded last August that agents had violated the Constitution by the methods it used in the May 2006 search.

The appeals court did not find that the raid itself was unconstitutional; rather, it found that the F.B.I. violated constitutional separation of powers by allowing agents to look freely through Congressional files for incriminating evidence.

The ruling last August told the bureau to return legislative documents to Mr. Jefferson. It did not, however, affect other items seized from his office, including computer hard drives. Nor did it affect evidence seized in a separate raid on the Congressman’s Washington-area home, including $90,000 found wrapped in aluminum foil in frozen-food containers in his kitchen freezer.”

The search of Jefferson’s office was reportedly the first time the FBI had searched a Congressional office. The DC Circuit rejected the FBI’s use of a “filter team” to evaluate what was legislative and could not be seized. The filter process was deemed inadequate to protect the legislative branch from executive intrusion under Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, “the “speech or debate” clause intended to protect lawmakers from being hounded by the executive branch while carrying out their legislative duties.”

The DC Circuit opinion issued August 3, 2007, is here.


18 Responses to “Supreme Court Affirms Lets Stand DC Circuit Decision in Wm. Jefferson Case”

  1. If we still had a legitimate Ethics Committee, this would not be a problem. The FBI could filter congressional work product through the committee and we could be reasonably assured that criminal activity would be made available to the DOJ. Today? I’ll be damned if I can figure out how a Senator or Rep. who chooses to commit felonies while on the Hill can be brought to the bar of justice.

    The District and SCOTUS got this right, though.

    Ed (215a21)

  2. *evidence of criminal activity.


    Ed (215a21)

  3. I think they got it right, too, Ed.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  4. It seems that what the FBI, or any other investigative agency, has to do is just go in, gather up everything, putting it under seal, and then dump it on the judge’s desk for his determination, in camera, of whether or not it is germane to the investigation.

    Otherwise, election to Congress is just a free pass to engage in corruption.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  5. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who “pithily” noted that Congress was America’s only native criminal class?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  6. Otherwise, election to Congress is just a free pass to engage in corruption.

    Isn’t that redundant?

    Stashiu3 (c8e98a)

  7. Now, who’s being cynical?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  8. Cynical? Moi? Just because it seems that if that Jérôme Kerviel, the French stock trader who committed the $7,000,000,000.00 fraud could get elected to Congress, he’d be home-free? Well, if that makes me cynical then… yeah, you’re right.

    Stashiu3 (c8e98a)

  9. If this ruling stands, I don’t know who I’ll hold lower in regard: Congress, or the Judiciary.
    Now, there’s a race to the bottom for you.

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  10. I’m pretty sure approval ratings don’t go into negative numbers (although I’m not sure about imaginary numbers). They may need to develop a new metric… Hostility Ratings maybe?

    Stashiu3 (c8e98a)

  11. the best ethics committee is the voting public. if his constituents keep sending him back thats their business. of course there is some spill over since he does direct our tax dollars also but what can we do?

    chas (04683b)

  12. Say hello to the IRS…

    mojo (528dd1)

  13. I haven’t been hearing squat about the prosperous Alan Mollohan from West Virginia, either from the Ethics Committee or the DOJ investigation and its subpoenas, since last summer. Have I missed anything or are the dems just sitting on this one in Congress?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  14. It is more than a technicality to point out the following:

    When the Supreme Court declines to review a case, that is not the same as “affirming” it.

    The legal effect of the Supreme Court’s denial of a petition for a writ of certiorari is commonly misunderstood as meaning that the Supreme Court approves the decision of a lower court. However, such a denial “imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case, as the bar has been told many times.” Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 (1995). The denial of review does not enhance the precedential value of the lower court decision.


    [EDIT: Good point, VoiceGuy, dpb, and XRLQ. I’ve corrected the title. I am especially annoyed at this mistake because I was so careful to note the distinction between affirming and denying review in the body, only to blow it in the title. Thanks again. — DRJ, 4/2/2008]

    Voiceguy in L.A. (e5b52a)

  15. All Y’all forget that these are Democrats being talked about. They RARELY face timely justice. Even Dan “RottenKowski” didn’t go to jail immediately for his pilfering of public funds. He got to ramrod through Clinton’s huge tax hike.

    Oh, elect Democrats to the Congress and the White House and that increase will be a pittance compared to what the Anti-American Socialist Democrats have planned to enact.

    PCD (5ebd0e)

  16. If they’re just denying review, then its not really “affirming.”

    dpb (3cd17c)

  17. What Voiceguy and dpb said. There’s a huge difference between denying cert in a case and and “affirming” it.

    Xrlq (b71926)

  18. The best ethics committee is the voting public.

    Not in Louisiana. Ever heard of Edwin Edwards?

    Besides, poor William Jefferson is obviously just a victim of genetic predisposition to crime.

    It would be downright skippy if Jefferson became Edward’s cell mate…

    EHeavenlyGads (f29174)

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