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Hutchinson v. Proxmire

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Hutchinson sued Proxmire for defamation because Proxmire gave Hutchinson’s federal sponsors an award for sponsored work that is considered a waste of tax dollars.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The Speech or Debate clause does not protect statements made by members of Congress, outside of Congress, if the statement is not critical for legislative considerations.

    Facts.

    Hutchinson sued Proxmire for defamation because Proxmire gave Hutchinson’s federal sponsors an award for sponsored work that is considered a waste of tax dollars. The court of appeals held that the Speech or Debate clause protected Proxmire’s statements.

    Issue.

    Whether the Speech or Debate clause protects statements made by members of Congress, outside of Congress, if the statement is not critical for legislative considerations?

    Held.

    No. The judgment of the court of appeals is reversed. Statements that are made that are not critical for legislative deliberations are not protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.

    Dissent.

    (Brennan, J.) Public criticism of unnecessary expenditures should be protected by the Speech or Debate clause.

    Concurrence.

    (Stewart, J.) Phone calls to federal agency officials are routine and should be protected.

    Discussion.

    The Speech or Debate clause does not protect statements made by members of Congress, outside of Congress, if the statement is not critical for legislative considerations.


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