Judge OKs Raid of Jefferson Office

A Federal Judge has upheld the FBI’s raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s office.

A federal judge on Monday upheld the FBI’s unprecedented raid of a congressional office, saying that barring searches of lawmakers’ offices would turn Capitol Hill into “a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan rejected requests from lawmakers and Rep. William Jefferson to return material seized by the FBI in a May 20-21 search of Jefferson’s office.

The overnight search was part of a 17-month bribery investigation of Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat.

In a 28-page opinion, Hogan dismissed arguments by Jefferson and a bipartisan group of House leaders that the raid violated the Constitution’s protections against intimidation of elected officials.

Hogan acknowledged the “unprecedented” nature of the case. But he said the lawmakers’ “sweeping” theory of legislative privilege “would have the effect of converting every congressional office into a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime.”

I’m a little wary of this ruling, though overall it’s probably a good thing. The FBI came pretty close to crossing the line protecting legislators from undue harrassment from the executive branch, but I don’t think they actually crossed it.

One potential bright side of this ruling is that it might force Congress to take a good, hard look at the standards currently practiced for allowing police and federal agents to search private property (that is, abysmal). Such a look might actually convince Congress to make it harder to obtain a search warrant–not just against Congressmen, but everybody, thereby making sure that things like this don’t ever happen again.

Well, yeah, I’m not holding my breath for that, either, but a man can dream, can’t he?

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, US Constitution, US Politics, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Steve Verdon says:

    Ahhh another convert.

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    Beats me why you think Congress would make search warrants harder to obtain against everyone. Congress does not appear to have ever had a problem exempting itself from laws applied to everyone else. I can’t imagine why Congress would have a problem doing the reverse, especially when it can make a high-sounding Constitutional argument why Congress is special.