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Appeals Court Rejects Government’s Bid on Jefferson Documents

A federal court of appeals has refused to re-hear the government’s argument about why it should be allowed to use documents seized in the raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) House office in his upcoming trial on criminal charges.

Now, the Justice Department will have to decide whether to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In August, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the search of Jefferson’s Rayburn House office building violated the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution because FBI agents reviewed material that could have been privileged due to its “legislative” nature.

But the government appealed for an “en banc” hearing by the full appeals court, arguing that the court may have inhibited future criminal proceedings by ruling that executive branch agents may not even see legislative documents even if they are not used in the prosecution of a Member of Congress.

“We’re pleased with this decision,” Jefferson attorney Robert Trout said.

Jefferson has been charged with accepting bribes in exchange for helping a company win contracts in Africa, charges the Congressman denies.

His trial in the Eastern District of Virginia is set to begin in January.