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Friday, January 19, 2007

OH-O1: Rep. Chabot Subpoena Cancelled

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A judge cancelled a witness subpoena that would have forced Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Oh-01, to testify Monday at the trial of five Iraq War protestors who staged a sit-in at his Cincinnati office last September. House lawyers intervened to block the subpoena and said Chabot's elected office shielded him from being forced to explain his legislative activities in a courtroom.

Among the protections House lawyers cited was the Speech and Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is available HERE and HERE.

The protestors are scheduled to stand trial on misdemeanor criminal trespass charges Jan. 22. The wanted to compel the GOP lawmaker to describe his reasons for supporting the Iraq War, which they consider illegal and immoral. Their lawyer, Bill Gallagher, contended Chabot's appearance was necessary because he wants to show a jury the protestors actions were a stand against illegal government actions. Chabot's House bio is HERE.

John D. Filamor, assistant counsel for the U.S. House in Washington, said Gallagher's subpoena "to compel Congressman Chabot to testify regarding his legislative activities with respect to the Iraq War, such compelled testimony, aside from being irrelevant, is absolutely barred by the Speech or Debate Clause."

He also said Chabot was not present during the sit-in and had no first hand evidence to offer. He said Chabot also had official duties to attend to the day on the trial. "Collectively, these official activities are very time consuming and require that federal legislators be shielded from compulsory testimony except in extraordinary circumstance," Filamor wrote in the motion to dismiss. "Members of Congress would face an intolerable distraction from their official duties if they could be subpoenaed by any party who stages a demonstration at one of their congressional district offices, and is later prosecuted for such activities."

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