Ruling slows corruption probes

John Dimsdale Dec 24, 2007


Renita Jablonski: The Justice Department begins 2008 with several ongoing probes into congressional corruption. The Feds are still investigating Representatives John Doolittle, Tom Feeney, and former House majority leader Tom DeLay. And a bribery case against Representative William Jefferson goes to trial in January.

But the Justice Department says a court ruling that puts legislative materials off-limits is handcuffing its investigations. John Dimsdale explains.

John Dimsdale: After the FBI seized documents from Representative Jefferson’s congressional offices, the courts prohibited future searches any place protected legislative material might be found. That includes lawmakers’ cars, briefcases and home offices.

The Justice Department wants the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling, and former federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel agrees:

Jacob Frenkel: When there are rulings that restrict access to particular types of information essential to the investigation, that by definition limits the ability of the government to conduct a thorough investigation.

Stan Brand: I think its prosecutorial hyperbole.

Stan Brand, a white-collar crime defense lawyer, says the Justice Department protests too much.

Brand: It doesn’t stop them from subpoenaing or issuing search warrants to anything they want, as long they do not, in the process, rummage through potentially privileged documents.

The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to accept the Justice Department’s appeal.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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