Congressional immunity

flaja

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The Constitution gives members of Congress immunity from lawsuits for anything they say in the course of congressional debate. One member of Congress can say anything he wants to about anyone and not be sued for slander. And by custom, the same goes for anything a politician says outside of Congress.

Would eliminating this immunity make politicians more civil towards each other? Would politicians be less likely to use inflammatory rhetoric (either in office, or while campaigning) if they knew their opponents could (and would) sue them for what they say or publish?
 

Hobbit

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It's a fine line. At the very least, the burden of proof should be high to ensure politicians don't start suing each other left and right.
 
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flaja

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It's a fine line. At the very least, the burden of proof should be high to ensure politicians don't start suing each other left and right.
Hate filled rhetoric has been part and parcel of American politics since at least the time of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. What we see today is likely tame in comparison.

But, if the threat of lawsuits will keep liberals from saying things like “Conservatives want to kill the old people by reforming Social Security”, I’m in favor of lawsuits.
 

Mr.Conley

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Too much potential danger. I'd much rather risk a cheapened dialogue then entertain the possibility of a tyrant someday imprisoning Congressmen for speech.
 

no1tovote4

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I'd prefer to keep them immune, imagine a strong President arresting people for what they say on the Congressional floor...
 

Jimmyeatworld

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Hate filled rhetoric has been part and parcel of American politics since at least the time of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. What we see today is likely tame in comparison.

But, if the threat of lawsuits will keep liberals from saying things like “Conservatives want to kill the old people by reforming Social Security”, I’m in favor of lawsuits.
Stuff like that is more about playing up to the extremists. I think most people hear things like that and meet it with a roll of the eyes and probably does more harm than good for the person saying it.

It's hard enough to get anything done in Washington as it is. Imagine having to wade through a series of lawsuits every time someone opened their mouth.
 
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flaja

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I fear we may see that someday...
To my knowledge neither libel, nor slander, are criminal offenses. Any act of libel or slander can be punished only through a civil lawsuit.

Furthermore, members of Congress have immunity that is separate from acts of libel or slander:

U.S. Constitution Article I, Section 6
…They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
 
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flaja

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Stuff like that is more about playing up to the extremists. I think most people hear things like that and meet it with a roll of the eyes and probably does more harm than good for the person saying it.

It's hard enough to get anything done in Washington as it is. Imagine having to wade through a series of lawsuits every time someone opened their mouth.
2006 is the first time in my 20 years as a voter that I did not cast a single vote. Between the primary and general elections I saw enough negative campaign ads that I did not feel comfortable voting- even for the lesser of two evils.

But, it wouldn’t take too many lawsuits for politicians to learn to refrain from saying or publishing any claim that they cannot prove in court.

BTW: I am not certain that I would want monetary punishments to be the result of lawsuits between politicians. If the libel or slander is proven to be true, then the politician that was libeled or slandered should never again be able to seek or hold public office. If the libel or slander is not proven to be true, then the politician who made the libel or slander should be barred from public office.
 

Jimmyeatworld

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2006 is the first time in my 20 years as a voter that I did not cast a single vote. Between the primary and general elections I saw enough negative campaign ads that I did not feel comfortable voting- even for the lesser of two evils.

But, it wouldn’t take too many lawsuits for politicians to learn to refrain from saying or publishing any claim that they cannot prove in court.

BTW: I am not certain that I would want monetary punishments to be the result of lawsuits between politicians. If the libel or slander is proven to be true, then the politician that was libeled or slandered should never again be able to seek or hold public office. If the libel or slander is not proven to be true, then the politician who made the libel or slander should be barred from public office.
Well, it's not just about what someone might say, it's about what someone might bring a lawsuit for. The court of public opinion can often be won even if it never makes it to court. How often have we seen accusations thrown out and splattered across the front page of the papers, only to have them proven wrong with the retraction buried on page 22.

Sometimes all that needs to be done is accuse, even if it has no merit. Essentially, it would be the same situation we are in now, with possibility of someone getting railroaded in court for nothing. I just don't think it's worth it.
 
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flaja

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Well, it's not just about what someone might say, it's about what someone might bring a lawsuit for. The court of public opinion can often be won even if it never makes it to court. How often have we seen accusations thrown out and splattered across the front page of the papers, only to have them proven wrong with the retraction buried on page 22.

Sometimes all that needs to be done is accuse, even if it has no merit. Essentially, it would be the same situation we are in now, with possibility of someone getting railroaded in court for nothing. I just don't think it's worth it.
It takes more to launch a lawsuit than a simple accusation. If an accusation is all that is needed, then libel and slander suits would be far more common than they are.
 

Gunny

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It takes more to launch a lawsuit than a simple accusation. If an accusation is all that is needed, then libel and slander suits would be far more common than they are.
IIRC, without looking, there has to be proven damage to one's reputation, and/or proven financial loss/loss of standing as a result.
 

Jimmyeatworld

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It takes more to launch a lawsuit than a simple accusation. If an accusation is all that is needed, then libel and slander suits would be far more common than they are.
I know. That's my point. All that is needed is someone to threaten with a lawsuit, even if it's not going anywhere.

Frankly, I'm tired of lawyers as it is. We can't even have an election anymore without an army of lawyers at the ready.
 
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flaja

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I know. That's my point. All that is needed is someone to threaten with a lawsuit, even if it's not going anywhere.
But, wouldn't the mere threat of a lawsuit improve the tone of political discourse? Wouldn’t a politician think twice before they hurled an insult or lied about their opponent’s policies, motivation or goals if he knew he could be sued?
 

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