McDermott appeals call ruling to Supreme Court
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Rep. Jim McDermott filed court papers today asking the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether he had a right to disclose contents of an illegally taped telephone call involving House Republican leaders a decade ago.
A federal appeals court ruled against the Washington state Democrat in May, saying he should not have given reporters access to the tape. McDermott's offense was especially egregious since he was a senior member of the House ethics committee, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in a 5-4 ruling.
But McDermott called the ruling an infringement of his First Amendment rights.
In a 28-page petition filed today, McDermott said the appeals court ruling flouts the authority not only of the Supreme Court, "but also of Congress, by adjudicating a violation of an internal House rule."
In its ruling, the appeals panel said that when McDermott became a member of the House ethics panel, he "voluntarily accepted a duty of confidentiality" and therefore had no First Amendment right to disclose the tape to the media.
The ruling upheld a previous decision ordering McDermott to pay House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, more than $700,000 for leaking the taped conversation. The figure includes $60,000 in damages and more than $600,000 in legal costs.
Boehner was among several GOP leaders heard on the December 1996 call, which involved ethics allegations against then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
McDermott, who was then serving on the ethics panel, was given the tape by a Florida couple who had recorded the call. He leaked it to two newspapers, which published stories on the case.
The House ethics panel said in a report in December that McDermott had failed to meet his obligations as a committee leader by giving reporters access to the tape.
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