Freedom of Speech in the West: A Comparative Study of Public Law in France, the United States, and Germany

By Frede Castberg | Go to book overview
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Chapter Five
CONGRESS, CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES AND FREE SPEECH

I. The immunity of members of Congress

Article I. Section 6 of the Constitution provides, concerning Senators and Representatives, that for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

The immunity covers all forms of lawsuit brought before the courts. It is presumably also a correct interpretation that the immunity can not be renounced. Agreement on the part of a Senator or Representative to a lawsuit before a court has probably no legal validity. The case must in other words be rejected ex officio, in consideration of the fact that the immunity is established in the interests of society and not as a privilege for Congressmen.1

That a Congressman cannot be made personally responsible for his statements does not mean that publication in whatever form of such statements in the press is also free from punishment. It is one matter to give objective accounts of such statements in public meetings, free from tendentious omissions of possible concessions and corrections. It is quite another to publish a statement without a justifiable motive for doing so, or without giving the discussion which forms the context of the statement. The victim of such an odious and spiteful publication of his state

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1
On this see Chafee, Three Human Rights in the Constitution of 1787, p. 85.

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