Jefferson Office Search Not Violation of Constitution
The FBI raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s congressional office was an aggressive tactic that broke a long-standing political custom. But while it might violate the spirit of the Constitution, it might not violate the letter of the document or subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court, legal analysts say.
The issue could turn on whether a court finds that the items seized from Jefferson’s office were related to such protected legislative activities as writing, researching and voting on bills. Other things could be fair game for the prosecution, analysts said. “An official legislative act is immune, but interference with anything beyond that” is not covered by the constitutional provision that shields Congress from executive and judicial branch interference, said Michael J. Glennon, a former legal counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who teaches at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
In a series of cases during the 1960s and ’70s, the court drew a protective line around papers, speeches and activities that are “essential” to legislative acts or the motives behind them, such as floor statements or committee reports. But it declined to protect anything not closely connected to legislative work, such as remarks to the press or constituent newsletters.
Of course, you already knew that.
- Hastert Demands FBI Return Documents in Jefferson Case
Congressmen Question FBI Raid on Jefferson’s Office
Jefferson Takes Bribes on Video, Cash in Freezer
Jefferson Seeks to Block Warrant Release
Louisiana A Swamp of Corruption
Katrina: Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson Used National Guard to Retrieve Belongings