Circuit Split?

Posted September 28, 2004 at 6:21pm

In what would be the second such case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) last week filed an immediate appeal of a lower court ruling denying his motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit against him.

He had argued that the Speech or Debate clause of the Constitution shields him from answering complaints about his employment practices in federal court — a key tenant in the Congressional Accountability Act, which applies 11 workplace and anti-discrimination laws to Congress. [IMGCAP(1)]

Dayton’s appeal, which the appellate court first must agree to hear, follows that of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) in the D.C. Circuit. A three-judge panel has set an early November briefing deadline in that case.

In late August, the D.C. district judge in Johnson’s case ruled that the Constitution doesn’t automatically afford lawmakers immunity from employment discrimination suits brought by senior legislative aides — an apparent first since the 1995 law allowed staffers to bring their grievances to court.

The two cases in the D.C. appellate court come as Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) awaits a decision by the 10th circuit on whether the Constitution protects him from a court hearing the merits of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former staffer.

Putnam Rules. With Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) officially resigning from the House last week, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) moved Tuesday to fill the new CIA director’s old committee seats.

Goss’ spot on the Rules Committee will be taken by fellow Florida Rep. Adam Putnam (R). Though only in his second term, the 30-year-old lawmaker has already become a favorite of leadership.

While Goss’ Intelligence chairmanship has already been handed to Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), his vacant seat on the Intelligence panel will go to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), an active player in the House on defense and security issues.

FEC Appeals. The Federal Election Commission on Tuesday voted to appeal a U.S. District Court decision throwing out many of the rules the agency adopted to implement the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The decision, rendered by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, was deemed a major victory by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) and their supporters. Kollar-Kotelly issued her ruling just over a week ago, striking down more than a dozen rules issued by the agency.

The FEC has not yet determined whether it will ask the court of appeals to review all or some of the rules remanded to the commission by the district court.

FEC Chairman Bradley Smith said in a statement following Tuesday’s decision that the FEC believes it has “a very strong case for appeal based on the factual circumstances as well as legal precedent.”

— Suzanne Nelson, Ben Pershing and Amy Keller