NPR logo

Court Settles Fight Between Boehner, McDermott

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9946755/9946758" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Court Settles Fight Between Boehner, McDermott

Law

Court Settles Fight Between Boehner, McDermott

Court Settles Fight Between Boehner, McDermott

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9946755/9946758" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The D.C. Circuit Appeals Court resolved a lawsuit stemming from a decade-old political battle between two lawmakers: Republican John Boehner of Ohio and Democrat James McDermott of Washington. The court said McDermott broke a law when he gave an illegally intercepted phone recording to The New York Times.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, it's a case about politics, free speech and privacy rights, and it may be the first time one member of Congress has sued another.

ARI SHAPIRO: The case started with an illegally recorded telephone conversation. A couple in Florida intercepted a conference call among Republican congressional leaders. One was Newt Gingrich, who was House speaker at the time. And the discussion was about allegations that he had violated ethics rules.

J: He, therefore, had no First Amendment right to disclose the tape to the media. Neil Richards teaches first First Amendment and privacy law at Washington University in St. Louis.

NEIL RICHARDS: The D.C. Circuit made clear that it was the role of McDermott on the House Ethics Committee, which has duty to confidentiality for its members and where the House itself had found that there was a violation of that duty - that that was the wrong here, not the illegal interception.

SHAPIRO: So does that mean the New York Times is breathing a sigh of relief today?

RICHARDS: I think so, unless the New York Times is on the House Ethics Committee.

SHAPIRO: Stanley Brand used to be counsel to the House of Representatives. He advised the member who first received the tape to hand it over to the House Ethics Committee. Now, more than 10 years later, he thinks this case will have little consequence beyond political bragging rights.

STANLEY BRAND: This case was always about the unique context that it occurred in, which was a fight under the dome between two political factions. And I think it doesn't really advance the law, the First Amendment, one way or the other.

SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.