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Legislative Immunity

Robert Wechsler
Eula Biss's excellent book On Immunity (Graywolf Press, 2014) is not about legislative immunity, but about immunity to diseases. And yet there is a great deal of food for thought in it about municipal ethics.

The first parallel can be seen in the "mun" in both "immunity" and "municipal." It comes from the same Latin word "munus," which means service or duty. Who knew that...
Robert Wechsler

This is the first of four blog posts in which I will look at Zephyr Teachout's excellent new book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard Univ. Press), from a government ethics viewpoint. ...

Robert Wechsler
It's official:  what differentiates us from chimpanzees is not our intelligence, our ability to deal with the abstract, or our ability to tell jokes. According to the decision of a five-member New York state appellate panel yesterday, "Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally...
Robert Wechsler
The Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects activities within the "legislative sphere" from being heard outside the legislature, and prevents the introduction of evidence of legislative activity in any such hearing. A recent brief from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in S.E.C. v. Ways and Means Committee argues (on pp. 30, 34-37) that...
Robert Wechsler
Rhode Island's lawmakers really know how to protect themselves. They have fought hard and long to effectively preserve their immunity from state ethics commission jurisdiction. However, with pressure on them to recommend to their constituents a constitutional amendment that would give the EC jurisdiction over them, despite the state's Speech in (sic) Debate Clause, they have planted a bomb in their proposed amendment that will ensure that even the state's good government organizations...
Robert Wechsler
Court decisions, especially when combined with criminal enforcement of ethics violations, can be very harmful to local government ethics. The court in a Monterey County case involving a serious §1090 conflict of interest matter that officials were not only aware of, but appear to have helped create, has used two recent California court decisions to limit prosecution to...

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