Congressman loses appeal

How’s that for a setup line? No, it’s another story about the use of “chilling effects” and the First Amendment in defense of illegal, usually political, acts — and this time, again, it didn’t work:

Here’s the story— remember this one?

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Rep. Jim McDermott violated federal law by turning over an illegally taped telephone call to reporters nearly a decade ago.

In a 2-1 opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a lower court ruling that McDermott violated the rights of House Majority Leader John Boehner, who was heard on the 1996 call involving former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. . . .

A lawyer for McDermott had argued that his actions were allowed under the First Amendment, and said a ruling against him would have “a huge chilling effect” on reporters and newsmakers alike.

Lawyers for 18 news organizations _ including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post _ filed a brief backing McDermott.

But Boehner’s lawyers said McDermott’s actions were clearly illegal.

Here’s the, er, “money quote,” by the way:

The lower court had ordered McDermott to pay Boehner more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and at least $600,000 in legal costs.

Now, who is going to pay thatWalter Olson, phone your office!  Someone just might earn a legal fee here!  (Via Drudge.)

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Ron Coleman

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