A judge in Washington declined on Wednesday to block evidence in ongoing U.S. Senate impeachment proceedings, ruling that he doesn't have jurisdiction over the issue.
In a 14-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia wrote that lawmakers are due a large degree of deference in their handling of the impeachment trial of another federal judge, G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
“Judicial restraint and comity dictate that this Court refrain from any interference with the ongoing proceedings in the Senate,” Leon wrote.
The issue before Leon was testimony that Porteous gave to ethics investigators of a 5th Circuit committee. Porteous gave the testimony under an order saying the testimony would not be used “in any criminal case,” and his lawyers argued to Leon that the testimony shouldn’t be allowed in the Senate’s case, either, because of the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
Leon’s ruling says that the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause, which privileges legislative activity, means that legislative lawyers’ use of Porteous’ testimony cannot be questioned in court. If Porteous wants to ask someone to bar the use of his earlier testimony, Leon wrote, “he may do so in the Senate, which, as the impeachment court, may well grant the relief he seeks.”
The Senate's trial is expected to take place in the fall.