Speech or Debate Clause (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Article I, Section 6, Clause 1, of the U.S. Constitution states in part,
for any Speech or Debate in either House, [senators and representatives] shall not be questioned in any other place.
The purpose of the clause is to prevent the arrest and prosecution of unpopular legislators based on their political views.
The U.S. Supreme Court has gradually defined and redefined the Speech or Debate Clause in several cases over the years. The first case concerning the Speech and Debate Clause was Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. (13 Otto) 168, 26 L. Ed. 377 (1880). The Court has interpreted the Speech or Debate Clause to mean that members of Congress and their aides are immune from prosecution for their "legislative acts." This does not mean that members of Congress and their aides may not be prosecuted. Rather, evidence of legislative acts may not be used in a prosecution against a member of Congress or a congressional aide.
The main controversy surrounding the Speech or Debate Clause concerns the scope of the phrase "legislative acts." The phrase obviously encompasses speeches and debates on the floor of the Senate or the House of Representatives. According to the Supreme Court, voting, preparing committee reports, and conducting committee hearings also are legislative acts, but republishing...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
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