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Thread: Can Senators be sued for slander?

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    Webhead, LLC webhead's Avatar
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    Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Somewhere in my brain is stored the notion that U.S. Senators cannot be sued for slander when speaking on the floor of the Senate chamber. My very same brain wonders if Senators can be sued for slander when lying elsewhere, like when he or she is standing outside the chamber.

    If so, I think the DoJ should look into suing Senator Susan Collins of Maine for slanderous lies iterated during TRMS and KO's Countdown. Collins lied about the interrogation of Fruit of the Boom, aka the Christmas Bomber. You know, the guy who tried to blow up an airplane with explosives in his underwear.

    If DoJ can make an example of Collins, maybe other REPIG Senators would think twice before lying. Naw, they are compulsive liars. Someone will take Collins'place. The DoJ would be working nights on the fucktard REPIG liars' cases.

    Oh well, it was a thought.
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    I don't believe that a sitting (standing?) Congress Critter can be charged with any crime for what they say on the floor of the Senate or House, nor do I think that they could be arrested for lying ever, unless it was an impeachable crime like lying under oath or obstruction of justice.
    Slander, however, is probably doable if the CC in question spoke ill of a private citizen without cause or proof that what they were saying was true.
    Congress Critters can and often do speak ill of each other or of groups that criticize them with relative impunity. They will often use harsh language when referring to public figures that have publicly disagreed with them and I have never heard of them being prosecuted for it. At worst they might, like Emanuele, have to apologize for a very poor choice of wording. Not to those they have insulted (Liberals), but to those who have worked for years to have a certain R word suppressed in favor of a more accurate term like Handicapped or Disabled.
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by webhead Click here to enlarge
    Somewhere in my brain is stored the notion that U.S. Senators cannot be sued for slander when speaking on the floor of the Senate chamber. My very same brain wonders if Senators can be sued for slander when lying elsewhere, like when he or she is standing outside the chamber.

    If so, I think the DoJ should look into suing Senator Susan Collins of Maine for slanderous lies iterated during TRMS and KO's Countdown. Collins lied about the interrogation of Fruit of the Boom, aka the Christmas Bomber. You know, the guy who tried to blow up an airplane with explosives in his underwear.

    If DoJ can make an example of Collins, maybe other REPIG Senators would think twice before lying. Naw, they are compulsive liars. Someone will take Collins'place. The DoJ would be working nights on the fucktard REPIG liars' cases.

    Oh well, it was a thought.
    You are thinking of the Speech and Debate clause. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, states in part:

    They [senators and representatives] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place. It seems clear that the purpose was to prevent prosecution of unpopular legislators due to their political views. It sounds like the reason you want to go after Collins is her political views, so that may be a problem.

    SCOTUS has looked at this a few times. In Kilbourn v. Thompsonthe Court held that members and their aides are immune from prosecution for their "legislative acts." This was really an evidence issue and it means that evidence of activities in the scope of legislative work may not be used in a case against a member aide. The Mike Gravel case, which involved the pentagon papers, is a great read.

    The real question is what does "legislative act" mean. There is no doubt it includes anything said on the floor while in session. SCOTUS also said that votes, preparing reports, attending committee hearings and preparing for witnesses at hearings are all legislative acts. Then they also have said that sending copies or parts or legislative materials to send to constituents or using them in political ads/mailings are not. Also, accepting a bribe was held not to be covered.

    So the answer to your question is that location has less to do with the issue than the substance of what the person was doing. If the senator is engaged in legislative activiti8es outside her door, she is protected.

    I can certainly see when a congressperson could be involved in legislative activities when on a TV show. In this case I would think a court would rule the TV appearances were outside her scope of legislative activities.

    That said, I think it would be a horrible mistake for the DoJ to consider charges for slander against Susan Collins for the interviews you are talking about.

    In the Rachel Maddow interview, she was clearly incorrect about her understanding of the law as it applies to foreign citizens and also about the advise Obama considered. Being incorrect is not slander. Its just being wrong. We don;t prosecute people for being wrong Also, I think its clear her comments about the interrogation of the Christmas Bomber were more about how it should have been done and not about his rights. There is nothing slanderous about that.

    Slander is generally a civil action anyway. Who did she slander, the government? President Obama? Not sure I get it.

    Slander is hard to prove. If she did not know she was wrong, its not slander. Its being an idiot, but its not slander. I think she is more of an idiot in this case that a criminal or tortfeasor.
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by dr.strangelove Click here to enlarge
    You are thinking of the Speech and Debate clause. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution, states in part:


    Slander is generally a civil action anyway. Who did she slander, the government? President Obama? Not sure I get it.

    Slander is hard to prove. If she did not know she was wrong, its not slander. Its being an idiot, but its not slander. I think she is more of an idiot in this case that a criminal or tortfeasor.
    Thanks for the legal review of my question. I can see where being wrong is not slander.

    I suppose my interest in the question reflects more on the lack of a response from a Democratic colleague to correct lies and/or distortions by a Republican, although Rachel did a great job in explaining why Collins was wrong.
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by dr.strangelove Click here to enlarge
    Being incorrect is not slander. Its just being wrong. We don;t prosecute people for being wrong.
    Exactly.
    I think for a crime of some kind to be committed a prosecutor would have to prove "intent", right?

    If it were a crime to be a dumb-ass then there'd be very few congress-critters in the first place... Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge
    A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congressís generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
    -Mike Lofgren, 28 years as a staffer on the Republican House and Senate budget and other committees, often dealing with national security and defense issues

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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    You guys are making me feel guilty of asking a stupid question. I am embarrassed that I asked such a stupid question! I am embarrassed that I could not figure out by myself that it was a stupid question.

    My bad for thinking that Collins should be sued by the DoJ!

    However, my good for being easily persuaded by you guys that I was wrong.

    See... you can fix stupid!!! Click here to enlarge
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    You funny! :P
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    A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congressís generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
    -Mike Lofgren, 28 years as a staffer on the Republican House and Senate budget and other committees, often dealing with national security and defense issues

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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by webhead Click here to enlarge
    You guys are making me feel guilty of asking a stupid question. I am embarrassed that I asked such a stupid question! I am embarrassed that I could not figure out by myself that it was a stupid question.

    My bad for thinking that Collins should be sued by the DoJ!

    However, my good for being easily persuaded by you guys that I was wrong.

    See... you can fix stupid!!! Click here to enlarge
    The only stupid question is the one that doesn't get asked. Because that's the one you will never have an answer to.
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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by webhead Click here to enlarge
    You guys are making me feel guilty of asking a stupid question. I am embarrassed that I asked such a stupid question! I am embarrassed that I could not figure out by myself that it was a stupid question.

    My bad for thinking that Collins should be sued by the DoJ!

    However, my good for being easily persuaded by you guys that I was wrong.

    See... you can fix stupid!!! Click here to enlarge
    Its never bad to ask questions, and it was not stupid. I was only saying we should keep the political process out of the courts. If someone does sometime wrong, I am all for charging them. But if you want someone out of office because of their point of view, thats what voting is all about. Anyway, its far from a stupid question. Whether or not someone is protected by the speech and debate clause is fascinating. Certainly if there was a natural disaster in Maine and Collins was giving out information on how to get government aid via a spot on the Today show or something, that would be protected. Its within her job. but this was a speech about her disagreement with Obama, not protected IMO. But thats a great discussion. What if she were saying, my understanding of what happened is Xyz and anyone who wants to give me information can reach me at my senate office, that might be covered. Hardly a stupid question.
    Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room.

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    Re: Can Senators be sued for slander?

    There is no such thing as criminal slander and I believe it is abolished also in England, the country which championed such a notion-If I recall it was on such a type of charge that Oscar Wilde went to jail for-no it was his accuser did to foce Wilde to deny being a homosexual.
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