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The Speech & Debate clause
By Cynthia Kirkeby
Oct 20, 2004, 09:48


Topic: Speech & Debate Clause

ClassBrain Visitor:

Can a member of the legislature be sued for what he says on the floor?
Thanks for the help!

ClassBrain Response:

It’s interesting that you asked about this. The members of the legislature are protected on many such items under the “Speech and Debate” clause.

“The protection of this clause is not limited to words spoken in debate. ''Committee reports, resolutions, and the act of voting are equally covered, as are 'things generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it.''' Thus, so long as legislators are ''acting in the sphere of legitimate legislative activity,'' they are ''protected not only from the consequence of litigation's results but also from the burden of defending themselves.'' But the scope of the meaning of ''legislative activity'' has its limits. ...

“ United States v. Brewster, while continuing to assert that the clause ''must be read broadly to effectuate its purpose of protecting the independence of the Legislative branch,'' the Court substantially reduced the scope of the coverage of the clause.”

This article, from which the above excerpts are taken, has an excellent discussion of this issue.
Source: FindLaw

This question has also been in the news lately with regards to an alleged bribe by Majority Leader Tom “the Hammer” DeLay.
Read about this issue in this article from
Defendant DeLay? Part 2

I hope that this answers your question. It’s a fascinating issue.

Cynthia Kirkeby
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