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Supreme Court declines Capitol Hill search and seizure case

Court of Appeals determined Federal agents violated the Constitution's speech or debate clause when they seized documents from the office of Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana.

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The US Supreme Court has declined to take up a case examining whether federal agents investigating corruption in Congress can seize thousands of documents from a lawmaker's office without violating the Constitution's speech or debate clause.

On Monday, the high court said it would not hear an appeal of a case involving the bribery investigation of Rep. William Jefferson (D) of Louisiana. At issue was whether US agents violated a constitutional safeguard when they searched Mr. Jefferson's office in May 2006, and seized 47,000 pages of documents – including papers related to the congressman's legislative work.

The high court's refusal to hear the case means that an August 2007 decision by a federal appeals court panel in Washington will remain in place. The appeals court ruled that federal agents violated the speech or debate clause when they conducted a wide-ranging search of the congressman's Capitol Hill office.

The search marked the first time a congressional office was raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And it raised a specific legal question that has never been addressed by the Supreme Court, analysts say.

Section I, Article 6 of the Constitution says in part: "For any speech or debate in either House, [Senators and Representatives] shall not be questioned in any other place."


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