Supreme Court Won't Intervene In Jefferson Raid Case

In a big win for Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), the Supreme Court today refused to take up a Justice Department request to overturn an appeals court ruling that the FBI's May 20, 2006, raid of Jefferson's office was unconstitutional.

This means that thousands of pages of privileged documents and materials seized from Jefferson's office, none of which have been turned over to federal prosecutors yet, will need to be reviewed to determine whether they are privileged under the Speech or Debate Clause, a constitutional privilege that protects lawmakers and staff from legal action for legislative activities. 

The Justice Department had been arguing that the August 2007 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that found the FBI search an unconstitutional violation of Jefferson's privileges under the Speech or Debate Clause is hampering ongoing criminal investigations of lawmakers.

But Jefferson's lawyers argued Supreme Court against intervention, saying that the lower-court ruling was correct. A bipartisan group of former House leadership aides also argued against having the Supreme Court step into the case.

The Supreme Court decision is a blow to the Justice Department and it could further delay consideration of the federal bribery and corruption trial s against Jefferson since he’ll now be able to individually challenge the seizure of any documents and materials taken in the raid, a process that could take a long time to complete. Robert Trout, Jefferson's lawyer, is "not sure" how long it will take to resolve this controversy.

Update - Here's the Justice Department reaction to the Supreme Court decision: "We are disappointed the Supreme Court has decided not to review this matter. The Department of Justice will continue to prosecute the case."

It's also a rebuke to Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who approved the search warrant allowing FBI agents to enter Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building. Hogan must now rule on whether any of the seized materials are privileged under Speech or Debate.