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Rangel v. Boehner

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

May 8, 2015

CHARLES B. RANGEL, APPELLANT
v.
JOHN A. BOEHNER, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued: November 13, 2014.

Page 20

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:13-cv-00540).

Jay Goldberg argued the cause and filed briefs for the appellant.

Isaac B. Rosenberg, Assistant Counsel, United States House of Representatives, argued the cause for the appellees. Kerry W. Kircher, General Counsel, William Pittard, Deputy General Counsel, Todd B. Tatelman, Mary Beth Walker, Eleni M. Roumel, Assistant Counsel, John M. Faust and Richard Sauber were with him on brief. Mark T. Stancil entered an appearance.

Before: HENDERSON, GRIFFITH and MILLETT, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 21

Henderson, Circuit Judge.

Karen Lecraft Henderson, Circuit Judge : Public service has its benefits and its burdens. Congressmen, for example, enjoy absolute immunity from suit for their conduct in the legislative arena. That same immunity, however, prevents them from airing their legislative disagreements in a judicial forum. Representative Charles Rangel asks this Court to review his 2010 censure by the United States House of Representatives. But the Constitution--specifically, the Speech or Debate Clause--prevents us from doing so. Rangel must vindicate his reputation in the one court that can hear his claim: the court of public opinion. We affirm the district court's dismissal of his complaint.

I.

Charles B. Rangel is the United States Representative for the 13th Congressional District of New York, a position he has held for more than four decades. In 2007, the Democratic Party assumed control of the House and Rangel became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Shortly into his tenure, however, Rangel was accused of numerous ethical improprieties. The House Committee on Ethics (Ethics Committee)[1] empanelled investigatory and adjudicatory subcommittees to look into the allegations. In November 2010, the adjudicatory subcommittee found by " clear and convincing" evidence that Rangel had committed eleven ethical violations, including improper solicitation of donations, failure to disclose financial information, improper use of House resources, receipt of improper favors and failure to pay taxes. See H.R. Rep. No. 111-661, pt.1, at 7-14 (2010). The full Ethics Committee adopted these findings and recommended a punishment of censure.[2] The House agreed by a vote of 333-79; and on December 2, 2010, the House Speaker read the censure resolution on the House floor while Rangel stood in the well. See 156 Cong. Rec. H7891-99 (daily ed. Dec. 2, 2010).

Seven months later, Politico.com published an article that implicated the Ethics Committee's investigation of Rangel. See John Bresnahan, Did Ethics Staff Taint Maxine Waters Probe ?, Politico (July 18,

Page 22

2011 4:40 AM), http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/59225.html. The article contained a leaked memorandum authored by the Committee's former Chief Counsel. The memorandum claimed that two Ethics Committee staffers engaged in impermissible ex parte communications and distributed damaging information about Rangel to the Republican Members of the adjudicatory subcommittee. ...


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