Judge Rules Congressman's Office Seizure 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."
The argument that Jefferson and other lawmakers were saying, that their offices could not be searched, I found to be completely ridiculous and I am glad the court seems to see it that way also.
Stating as such, that if the lawmakers who opposed this had their way it would turn into, "a taxpayer-subsidized sanctuary for crime."
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.
I love this term that keeps being thrown out, "unprecedented".
The search and seizure of a congressmans office documents and materials in conjuntion of an ongoing investigation, and a warrant to search was obtained, that it is "unprecedented".
It may be unprecedented because no one has had the cojones to go after a congressman and their illegal activity they seem to have been involved in. It is time to show these senators and congressman that they are not above the law, and their offices (public ones that we pay for) are not their personal playgrounds to harbor illegal activity and expect that they are immune to searches - as long as it is done properly with a warrant.
I understand that there has been a lot of jawing back and forth about proper type of etiquette in searching a congressmans office, that the Speaker should have been informed, blah, blah, blah.
That is ridiculous. Why would the FBI inform other congressmen that they are about to do a search of one of their colleagues? So they can warn the colleague?
We see how well our government officials keep secrets alright, looking at several top secret programs that have been leaked to the press by government officials. Why in the world would the FBI trust informing others of their plans in light of this?
They did it right. They obtained a warrant, they searched, they seized what they thought was material to the case, and then they left. The court also sees this has completely legal.
Jefferson had sought the return of several computer hard drives, floppy disks and two boxes of paper documents that FBI agents seized during the 18-hour search of his Rayburn Building office.
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.
It must have been a very detailed search also, if it was 18 hours.
I do have a problem with President Bush seemingly intefered with this investigation. I understand he is trying to please both sides, but he needs not be part of this. He needs to let the law and investigation continue to do their jobs.
Now that the courts have determined this was completely legal, President Bush needs to stand back and let them finish the investigation.
Jefferson's lawyer, Robert Trout, said he was not surprised by the ruling and would appeal as soon as possible. Trout is expected to ask Hogan to stay his ruling to keep the materials away from investigators until an appeals court looks at the case.
"While a congressman is not above the law, the executive branch must also follow the law," Trout said. "We appreciate the consideration the judge accorded our motion for the return of the seized property, but we respectfully disagree with his conclusion."
I am not surprised this will be appealed, but unless they can get a higher court to issue a hold on that ruling, Judge Hogan's ruling should be acted on immediately.
Just a quick question...if you get sentenced to prison and then you appeal the sentence, do you get out of jail while you go through the appeal process?
Not that I have seen.
So why shouldn't this investigation continue and the documents and materials seized gone over while they appeal the ruling?
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California also said Congress will continue to work with the Justice Department on procedures for searches.
Are we expecting further searches of wrong-doing Nancy?
Snarky comment aside, why does there need to be a procedure for searching their offices?
Are they not subject to the same search and seizures by law that the ordinary public citizen is?
The judge has already ruled they are, and that the special provisions and protection of congressmen and senators does not apply to their offices.
So why special meetings to hammer out some sort of special procedure for legal searching of congressmen and senator's offices?
Still, "This particular search could have been conducted in a manner that fully protected the ability of the prosecutors to obtain the evidence needed to do their job while preserving constitutional principles," she said.
At issue was a constitutional provision known as the speech or debate clause, which protects elected officials from being questioned by the president, a prosecutor or a plaintiff in a lawsuit about their legislative work.
Which seems to be a moot point, because the congressmans office does not apply in the constitutional provision.
Also, a majority of the American public think the same way, that congressmen and senators should not be immune to such actions, as long as it is done legally. Which in this case the judge believes and has ruled it has.
The raid on Jefferson's office angered members of Congress, some of whom threatened to retaliate by tinkering with the FBI and Justice Department budgets.
This infuriates me to no end here, and I am surprised it has not gotten more time in the public spotlight.
Because the members of congress did not like that one of their own member's office has gotten searched LEGALLY, with a WARRANT, they threaten to intefere and mess with the budget of the FBI and Justice Department?!?!?
Are you freakin' nuts?
Congress threatens law enforcement departments and officials that they may retaliate by going after their budgets?
I would say that is blackmail, coercion, and intefering in the lawful actions of a law enforcement official in the execution of his/her job.
I am surprised that this has not gotten more public airing, that congress threatens these departments, public blackmail, and attempts at coercion because law enforcement did their jobs legally.
An affidavit filed with Hogan to justify the May search says the FBI videotaped Jefferson in August 2005 accepting $100,000 from a business executive, who actually was a government informant. The FBI said it subsequently recovered $90,000 from a freezer at Jefferson's home.
The House leaders told Hogan in a court filing that the Justice Department had overstepped its authority by prohibiting Jefferson's private lawyer, House counsel and the Capitol Police from observing the search of Jefferson's office.
Maybe I missed something, where does it say counsel needs to be present in a search warrant?
If the FBI comes into my home with a legal search warrant, does the sheriff and the city police (local law enforcement) need to be there also to observe the FBI search?
Being as this was a Federal investigation, and not a local one, I think their points on this are not valid.
They also complained that agents showed up at the Rayburn Office Building unannounced and demanded that the Capitol Police chief let them into Jefferson's office immediately or they would "pick the office door lock."
And the problem is?
In a search, you want to surprise the location and individual being searched, you don't want it announced your coming so they can shred and destroy documents and material that is incriminating to the person being searched.
I have no problem with the FBI actions, and as far as I know, they do not have to wait around for people to go wake up the congressman or his staff, or to go find the Speaker of the House, while they sit in front of the doorway asking please can we come in now?
They obtain a search warrant and they come in fast, and unannounced to make sure no one has forewarning so they can be surprised and not have the time or the ability to destroy documents and materials.
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."
Couldn't have said it better myself.
Congressman Jefferson, one last thing....
"You have the right to remain silent.
The right to a court-appointed attorney.
You have the right to sing the blues.
You have the right to cable TV.
You have the right to sublet.
You have the right to paint the walls.
No loud colors."
- Steve Guttenberg in Police Academy II
In doing a full complete search on Congressman Jefferson, I think the FBI needs to go back and request this:
Excuse me. Could I have your signature for this?
-Sure. What do you got?
-Authorization for a body cavity search.
- Steve Guttenberg in Police Academy II
Others blogging this issue:
Sister Toldjah with "Take that, Congress"
Leaning Straight Up with "Poor Congress- Not above the law after all…"
Flopping Aces with "Rule Of Law Prevails Despite Democrats Efforts"
Ankle Biting Pundits with "Take That You Arrogant Bunch of Congressional Clowns (Of Both Parties)"
ABC News: The Blotter with "Jefferson Corruption Case "Back on Track"
California Conservative with "Judge Rules Search of Jefferson’s Office Constitutional"
Iowa Voice with "FBI Raid Of Congressman's Office Legal"
White Collar Crime Prof with "Judge Kaplan's Decision - KPMG"
Say Anything with "Judge Rules On Search Of Rep. Jefferson's Office"