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Partner Bill Pittard Files Supreme Court Brief on Behalf of Former General Counsels of the U.S. House of Representatives

KaiserDillon partner Bill Pittard has filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States, supporting a request by Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, to have the Supreme Court hear the case.

Pittard’s brief weighs in on an important question of when the Department of Justice can try to prosecute members of Congress. Senator Menendez is being prosecuted on public corruption charges. His lawyers have argued, however, that the prosecution is based in part on the Senator’s legislative activities, for which he is immune from prosecution under the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution.

When Senator Menendez made his argument before the lower court, that court held that determination of whether a legislator’s acts constitute protected legislative activity requires examination of his or her motive. But the Supreme Court previously has said that a legislator’s motives are off-limits. According to the Supreme Court, courts must look elsewhere to determine whether particular conduct is protected legislative activity.

In the amicus brief, Pittard explains the inconsistency between the lower court’s and the Supreme Court’s approaches to the Speech or Debate Clause. He also explains that the lower court’s erosion of the Speech or Debate Clause immunity threatens to chill Senators and Representatives in the performance of their legislative responsibilities, including in performing meaningful oversight over the federal government.

Pittard’s brief is filed on behalf of former General Counsels of the U.S. House of Representatives, who served across the past five decades and under the past eight Speakers of the House. Specifically, Pittard’s brief is on behalf of Kerry W. Kircher, Geraldine R. Gennet, Thomas J. Spulak, Steven R. Ross, and Stanley M. Brand.