Supreme Court To Decide Soon Whether To Hear DOJ Appeal On Jefferson Raid

The Supreme Court will consider this Friday whether to take up a Justice Department request to overturn an appeals court ruling finding the May 2006 raid on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) unconstitutional.

An announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision on whether it will take up the case could come as early as next Monday, although there is no way of actually predicting what the high court will do.

The Justice Department’s request, and a counter-motion by Jefferson’s legal team arguing against Supreme Court intervention, are scheduled to be “distributed for conference” among the justices this Friday. The Supreme Court could place the case on the “Orders List” released the following Monday, or or add the case to its schedule on a future list.

The Justice Department wants the Supreme Court to allow searches of congressional offices, arguing that leaving the August 2007 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit - which found the FBI search an unconstitutional violation of Jefferson's privileges under the Speech or Debate Clause - is hampering ongoing criminal investigations of lawmakers.

Jefferson, who is being supported by a bipartisan group of senior House leadership aides, argues that the appeals court ruling was correct. Under the Speech or Debate Clause, legal action cannot be taken against lawmakers and staffers for legislative activities. Jefferson's legal team successfully argued on the appeals level that the FBI search of his office was unconstitutional

The appeals court remanded the case tback o the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for determination of whether any of the thousands of documents seized during the raid were covered by Speech or Debate. Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan has yet to make any rulings on those documents, meaning that 22 months after the search, federal prosecutors have still not gotten their hands on anything turned up FBI agents during the search.

The Justice Department is involved in a dual-track battle with Jefferson’s legal team over the Speech or Debate Clause as it seeks to prosecute the veteran Democratic lawmaker on a slew of corruption charges, including bribery, racketeering, money laundering and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Jefferson is the first lawmaker ever charged with violating that particular statute.
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