May Congresspersons Be Sued for Their Statements?
Have the Class read the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution. (The final clause of Article I, Section 6 (1)) Call on a volunteer to explain its purpose. (To protect freedom of legislative debate) Then inform the class that this case considers the limits to the Speech and Debate privilege.
Ask a volunteer to explain how this case limits the Speech and Debate privilege. (It only applies to speech directly related to the legislative function) Then discuss why the law provides less protection for critical remarks about “public figures.” (Because public figures expect to have their opinions subjected to public debate and criticism)
Explain that he Speech and Debate Clause has been held to protect members of Congress from arrest, prosecution, or suit; however, it does not prohibit Congress from arrest, prosecution, or suit; however, it does not prohibit Congress from disciplining its own members. Ask students to explain how this arrangement is related to the Separation of Powers doctrine. (It insures the independence of the legislative branch, but still provides a way to discipline legislators)
Name __________________________ Date______
May Congresspersons Be Sued for Their Statements Ms. Travis
1. Review the constitutional grounds on which each side based its arguments and the specific arguments each side presented
2. Debate the opposing viewpoints presented in this case. Which viewpoint do you favor? Why?
3. Predict the impact of the Court’s decision on activities and statements by members of Congress outside the House and Senate chambers.
4. What is the purpose of this case?
5. How does this case limit the Speech and Debate privilege
6. Why does this law provide less protection for critical remarks about political figures?
7. How is this arrangement related to the Separation of Powers doctrine?