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Boehner Finally Wins Legal Fight With McDermott Over Illegally Taped Call

The Supreme Court refused today to take up an appeal by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) of a lower court ruling ordering him to pay a fine and attorneys' fees in a years-long legal battle with now House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), finally bringing an end to the case.

The Associated Press is reporting that the Supreme Court has declined to hear McDermott's appeal, leaving the Washington Democrat with no more legal options in the case. He must now pay $60,000 in damages to  Boehner, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

The case centered around an illegally taped Dec. 1996 phone calls between House Republican leaders, including Boehner, to plot strategy in response to an ethics case against then Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The illegal tape eventually made its way to McDermott, who was ranking member of the House ethics committee. McDermott leaked it to the press, incuding The New York Times. Boehner then sued McDermott, alleging that McDermott's action harmed him personally. McDermott argued that he was protected under the First Amendment, since Republican leaders had promised not to take any concerted action in response to the Gingrich investigation by the ethics committee, and he was supported by a number of prominent news organizations. The Florida couple that made the tape eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

After a number of legal twist and turns (too numerous to go into here), a federal appeals court ruled against McDermott in May, and with today's Supreme Court action, the case is effectively over and McDermott, who is not independently wealthy, will have to shell out a lot of money. He has set up a legal defense fund to cover his own bills in the case, upon which Boehner's bills will be added.