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Doe v. McMillan

Legislative Acts Immune From Suit

The Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution grants members of Congress absolute immunity from civil suits arising from legislative activity. In this case, the Supreme Court held that none of the activity conducted by the congressmen or their staffs--from preparing the report to referring it to the House Speaker to voting for its publication--went beyond the bounds of legislative activity. Therefore, they could not be sued for invasion of privacy:

Petitioners argue that including in the record of the hearings and in the report itself materials describing particular conduct on the part of identified children was actionable because unnecessary and irrelevant to any legislative purpose . . . Although we might disagree with the Committee as to whether it was necessary, or even remotely useful, to include the names of individual children in the evidence submitted to the Committee and in the Committee Report, we have no authority to oversee the judgment of the Committee in this respect or to impose liability on its Members if we disagree with their legislative judgment. The acts of authorizing an investigation pursuant to which the subject materials were gathered, holding hearings where the materials were presented, preparing a report where they were reproduced, and authorizing the publication and distribution of that report were all "integral part[s] of the deliberative and communicative processes by which Members participate in committee and House proceedings with respect to the consideration and passage or rejection of proposed legislation or with respect to other matters which the Constitution places within the jurisdiction of either House." . . . As such, the acts were protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Doe v. McMillan - Significance, The Lower Court Rulings, The Supreme Court Ruling, Legislative Acts Immune From Suit