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“[P]roof of an agreement to be 'influenced in the performance of legislative acts is by definition an inquiry into their motives, whether or not the acts themselves or the circumstances surrounding them are questioned at trial.” United States v. Brewster, 408 US 501, 536, 33 L Ed 2d 507, 92 S Ct 2531 (1972) (Brennan J., dissenting). I continue to adhere to the view expressed in my dissent in Brewster, and would hold that “a corrupt agreement to perform legislative acts, even if provable without reference to the acts themselves, may not be the subject of a general conspiracy prosecution.” Id., at 539, 33 L Ed 2d 507, 92 S Ct 2531.
US —, 61 L Ed 2d 30, 99 S Ct
H. CURTIS MEANOR, United States District Judge, et al.
Argued March 27, 1979 Decided June 18, 1979. Decision: Challenge to criminal indictment by mandamus based on alleged violation of speech or debate clause (Art I, § 6), held inappropriate.
An individual who, at the time, was a member of Congress was indicted for conspiracy to violate, and for substantive counts of violating, 18 USCS $ 201, which forbids a public official from accepting a bribe in return for being influenced in the performance of official acts. The individual moved to dismiss the indictment in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, arguing, among other things, that the indictment violated the speech or debate clause of the Federal Constitution (Art I, § 6) because the grand jury had heard evidence concerning legislative acts, the basis for the indictment being the individual's introduction of certain private bills in the House of Representatives. The District Court held that the speech or debate clause did not require dismissal of the indictment. Subsequently, the individual petitioned the United States Court of Appeals to the Third Circuit for a writ of mandamus to compel the District Court to dismiss the indictment. The Court of Appeals declined to issue the writ (576 F2d 511).
On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court affirmed. In an opinion by Burger, Ch. J., joined by Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Rehnquist, and Stevens, JJ., it was held that mandamus is not the appropriate means of challenging the validity of a criminal indictment on the ground that the indictment violates the speech or debate clause, and therefore the Court of Appeals properly declined to grant the writ of mandamus, especially since the individual could readily have secured review of the District Court's ruling by direct appeal to the Court of Appeals from the District Court's order denying his motion to dismiss the indictment, the order constituting a complete, formal and, in the trial court, final rejection of his claim under the speech or debate clause.
BRENNAN, J., dissenting, expressed the views that (1) values as vitally important as those guaranteed by the speech or debate clause are entitled to more sensitive treatment than they received in the court's decision in the case at bar, and therefore (2) the individual should not have been prevented from utilizing mandamus on the ground that a direct appeal was available, since he could not have known until the court's decision that such an appeal was in fact available under the circumstances, the appeal being time-barred at that point.
POWELL, J., did not participate.
Classified to U.S. Supreme Court Digest, Lawyers'
Appeal and Error 8 77; Mandamus § 19-speech or debate clause-dismissal of indictment-mandamus Mandamus is not the appropriate means of challenging the validity of a criminal indictment on the ground that it violates the speech or debate clause of the Federal Constitution (Art I, § 6), and therefore a United States Court of Appeals properly declines to grant a former U.S. Congressman's petition for a writ of mandamus to compel a Federal District Court to grant his motion to dismiss an indictment against him on the ground that the grand jury had heard evidence concerning legislative acts—the Congressman having been charged with certain offenses relating to his alleged acceptance of money in return for the performance of official acts in violation of 18 USCS § 201—where the Congressman could readily have secured review of the ruling complained of, and all objectives sought, by direct appeal to the Court of Appeals from the District Court order denying his motion to dismiss the indictment, such order constituting a complete, formal, and final rejection of his claim under the speech or debate clause in the trial court. (Brennan, J., dissented from this holding.)
SYLLABUS BY REPORTER OF DECISIONS
Petitioner, than a Member of Congress, was indicted in 1976 for conspiring to solicit and accept, and for soliciting and accepting, bribes in return for being influenced in the performance of official acts, namely the introduction of certain private bills in the House of Representatives. He moved in District Court to dismiss the indictment on the ground, inter alia, that the indictment violated the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution because the grand jury had heard evidence of legislative acts, but the motion was denied. Thereafter, he petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for a writ of mandamus directing the District Court to dismiss the indictment. The court declined to issue the writ, holding that the indictment did not violate the Speech or Debate Clause.
Held: Mandamus was not the appropriate means of challenging the validity of the indictment on the ground that it violated the Speech or Debate Clause. Direct appeal to the Court of Appeals was available and was the proper course.
(a) Once the motion to dismiss the indictment was denied, there was nothing further petitioner could do under the Speech or Debate Clause in the trial court to prevent the trial, and an appeal of the ruling was clearly available. Cf. Abney v. United States, 431 US 651, 52 L Ed 2d 651, 97 S Ct 2034.
(b) The Speech or Debate Clause was designed to protect Congressmen “not only from the consequences of litigation's results but also from the burden of defending themselves.” Dombrowski v. Eastland, 387 US 82, 85, 18 L Ed 2d 577, 87 S Ct 1425.
(c) If a Member of Congress "is to avoid exposure to [being questioned for acts done in either House) and thereby enjoy the full protection of the [Speech or Debate] Clause his . . . challenge to the indictment must be reviewable before exposure [to trial] occurs.” Abney, supra, at 662, 52 L Ed 2d 651, 97 S Ct 2034.
(d) Petitioner cannot be viewed as being penalized for failing to anticipate the decision in Abney, since the controlling law of the Third Circuit was announced at the time of the District Court's order denying dismissal of the indictment, see United States v. DiSilvio, 520 F2d 247, and the holding in Abney did no more than affirm the correctness of that holding. 576 F2d 511, affirmed.
BURGER, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stewart, White, Marshall, Blackmun, Rehnquist, and Stevens, JJ., joined. Brennan, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Powell, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
APPEARANCES OF COUNSEL
Morton Stavis argued the cause for petitioner.
Solicitor General Wade H. McCree, Jr., argued the cause for respondents.
Stanley M. Brand argued the cause for Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House et al., as amici curiae, by special leave of court.
OPINION OF THE COURT
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question in this case is whether mandamus is an appropriate means of challenging the validity of an indictment of a Member of Congress on the ground that it