TENNEY V. BRANDHOVE, 341 U. S. 367 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367 (1951)

Tenney v. Brandhove

No. 338

Argued March 1, 1951

Decided May 21, 1951

341 U.S. 367


Respondent sued petitioners in the Federal District Court for damages under 8 U.S.C. §§ 43 and 47(3), alleging that, in connection with an investigation by a committee of the California Legislature, he had been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution. Petitioners are the committee and the members thereof, all of whom are members of the legislature.

Held: From the allegations of the complaint, it appears that petitioners were acting in a field where legislators traditionally have power to act; and 8 U.S.C. §§ 43 and 47 (3) do not create civil liability for such conduct. Pp. 341 U. S. 369-379.

(a) The privilege of legislators to be free from arrest or civil process for what they do or say in legislative proceedings has been carefully preserved in the formation of our State and National Governments. Pp. 341 U. S. 372-375.

(b) By 8 U.S.C. §§43 and 47(3), Congress did not intend to limit this privilege by subjecting legislators to civil liability for acts done within the sphere of legislative activity. P. 341 U. S. 376.

(c) The privilege is not destroyed by a claim that the motives of the legislators were improper. P. 341 U. S. 377.

(d) In order to find that a legislative committee's investigation has exceeded the bounds of legislative power, it must be obvious that there was a usurpation of functions exclusively vested in the Judiciary or the Executive. P. 341 U. S. 378.

(e) Legislative privilege deserves greater respect in a case in which the defendants are members of the legislature than where an official acting on behalf of the legislature is sued or where the legislature seeks the affirmative aid of the courts to assert a privilege. P. 341 U. S. 379.

183 F.2d 121, reversed.

In an action brought by respondent against petitioners under 8 U.S.C. §§ 43 and 47(3), the District Court dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed. 183 F.2d 121. This Court granted certiorari. 340 U.S. 903. Reversed, p. 341 U. S. 379.

Page 341 U. S. 369

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