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United States v. Gillock

445 U.S. 360 (1980)

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United States v. Gillock

United States Supreme Court

445 U.S. 360 (1980)

Facts

Edgar H. Gillock (defendant) was a Tennessee state senator. In 1976 Gillock was charged with violating several federal laws by accepting money to use his public office to block the extradition of a criminal defendant from Tennessee to Illinois and to introduce legislation that would allow four people to obtain occupational licenses for which they otherwise would have been ineligible. Gillock moved to suppress evidence related to his legislative acts. The district court granted Gillock’s motion and held that as a state senator, Gillock had an evidentiary privilege under Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence because common-law principles supported finding such a privilege. The district court came to its conclusion by analyzing the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution, which grants a similar privilege to members of Congress. The district court explained that the privilege was necessary to protect the independence of state legislators and ensure the integrity of the legislative process. After determining that Gillock had an evidentiary privilege available to him, the district court prohibited evidence related to Gillock’s legislative acts and motions from being introduced in court. The federal government (plaintiff) appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the district court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

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