making local government more ethical

Additional Reading on Speech or Debate Clause Issues

In the materials I have found online, Speech or Debate Clause issues are discussed in terms of state legislators (and usually state constitutions), even though the federal Speech or Debate Clause applies equally to local government legislators. But the discussions are all relevant to local government situations.

I will continue to add to this list, and I'd appreciate receiving information about other discussions of these issues.

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A newspaper article about a similar 2007 controversy between the Rhode Island Ethics Commission and the state senate president. The senate president appealed to the Superior Court on Speech or Debate grounds, but then settled days later, paying a fine in return for dropping charges based on senate votes, so the issue was never adjudicated).

Later in 2007, according to another article, a suit was brought against the Ethics Commission by a former state senate president on similar grounds (William V. Irons v. Rhode Island Ethics Commission, Superior Court C.A. No. 07-6666). This suit appears to be pending.

A blog entry discussing a possible exception for ethics enforcement to the usual application of the Speech or Debate Clause, relating to the first Rhode Island situation.,

Larry Shapiro on how freedom of information laws are limited by the Speech or Debate Clause, including a look at institutional waiver.

A 2007 Congressional Research Service report on recent developments in Speech or Debate Clause law has a good list of topics the clause applies to and does not apply to, and the relevant cases (pp. 5-7).

An informal advisory opinion of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission on a speech or debate issue. Hawaii's constitutional immunity language is broader than the U.S. Constitution because it specifically includes actions in addition to speech: "No member of the legislature shall be held to answer before any other tribunal
for any statement made or any action taken in the exercise of his legislative
functions." But the opinion considers federal cases, as well.

A 1996 Kentucky Ethics Commission decision considering what are and are not legislative acts with respect to the Speech or Debate Clause.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
rwechsler@cityethics.org

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