A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Monday, July 10, 2006

Of Course It's Legal

Remember William Jefferson, Dem from Louisiana? (If you don't, visit here, here, here, and here.)

Some members of the Monarchy Congress had fits when the FBI raided Jefferson's congressional office, after Jefferson refused to turn over documents asked for in a legally served warrant.

We all knew the FBI was right in its actions. Now a judge agrees.

AP: Judge: FBI Raid on Lawmaker's Office Legal ---

WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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."

A member of Congress is bound by the same laws as ordinary citizens, said the judge, who had approved the FBI's request to conduct the overnight search of Jefferson's office.
(emphasis added)

Can we get an "amen!"?

Hogan said the Justice Department can retake custody of the materials, which President Bush ordered held by the solicitor general until Congress and the agency could work out procedures for future raids on congressional offices.
[. . .]
Hogan said investigators do not need approval from elected officials or their lawyers to seize possible proof of a crime.

"The power to determine the scope of one's own privilege is not available to any other person, including members of the coequal branches of government: federal judges ... or the President of the United States," the judge said.

He also said judges have a legitimate role to play in ensuring prosecutors don't overstep their authority in investigating legislators.

"A federal judge is not a mere rubber stamp in the warrant process," Hogan wrote, "but rather an independent and neutral official sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution."
Thanks for reminding the President and Congress.

(Curtsy to Drudge)

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