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Appeals Crt: Jefferson Raid Unconstitutional

From those champions of the Constitution at the Associated Press:

Court: FBI violated Constitution in raid

By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The FBI violated the Constitution when agents raided U.S. Rep. William Jefferson’s office last year and viewed legislative documents in a corruption investigation, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The court ordered the Justice Department to return any legislative documents it seized from the Louisiana Democrat’s office on Capitol Hill. The court did not order the return of all the documents seized in the raid and did not say whether prosecutors could use any of the records against Jefferson in their bribery case.

Jefferson argued that the first-of-its-kind raid trampled congressional independence. The Constitution prohibits the executive branch from using its law enforcement powers to interfere with the lawmaking process. The Justice Department said that declaring the search unconstitutional would essentially prohibit the FBI from ever looking at a lawmaker’s documents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that claim. The court held that, while the search itself was constitutional, FBI agents crossed the line when they viewed every record in the office without giving Jefferson the chance to argue that some documents involved legislative business.

“The review of the Congressman’s paper files when the search was executed exposed legislative material to the Executive” and violated the Constitution, the court wrote. “The Congressman is entitled to the return of documents that the court determines to be privileged.” …

“Today’s opinion underscores the fact that the Department of Justice is required to follow the law, and that it is bound to abide by the Constitution,” defense attorney Robert Trout, said, promising more legal challenges to “overreaching by the government in this case.” …

The Justice Department did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the decision. Officials have said they took extraordinary steps, including using an FBI “filter team” not involved in the case to review the congressional documents. Government attorneys said the Constitution was not intended to shield lawmakers from prosecution for political corruption.

The court was not convinced. It said the Constitution insists that lawmakers must be free from any intrusion into their congressional duties. Such intrusion, even by a filter team, “may therefore chill the exchange of views with respect to legislative activity,” the court held…

Following his indictment, Jefferson’s supporters accused the Bush administration of targeting black Democrats to shift attention from the legal troubles of Republican congressmen…

So it turns out that some people are above the law after all. (Of course this only applies to Democrats.)

Meanwhile, the Democrats continue their relentless witch-hunts against the Bush administration without let or hindrance.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, August 3rd, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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