WASHINGTON – An Ohio congressman's wiretapping lawsuit against a fellow representative has new life.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has decided to allow Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to amend his lawsuit against Rep. James McDermott, D-Wash., and argue it again.
Boehner sued after a Florida couple used a scanner to record a December 1996 conference call in which Boehner, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich and other House leaders discussed strategy involving announcement of an ethics committee finding against Gingrich.
The couple gave the tape to McDermott, and the contents soon surfaced in news stories. The couple later pleaded guilty to unlawfully intercepting the call and were fined $500 each.
Boehner's lawsuit accused McDermott of leaking the tape in violation of a federal wiretapping law that bars people from disclosing information they know was obtained by illegally intercepting a "wire, oral or electronic communication."
McDermott argued that he did not break the law by receiving the tape, and that punishing him for making it public would violate his free-speech rights under the Constitution's First Amendment.
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 1998. A divided appeals court reinstated it the next year and McDermott appealed to the Supreme Court, which sent it back to the appeals court after deciding instead to hear a Pennsylvania case that raised similar issues.
The appeals court issued its decision Dec. 21.
Boehner's lawyer, Michael Carvin, says he plans to argue this time that McDermott's position on the House ethics committee required him to keep quiet about issues before the panel.