United States v. Helstoski
442 U.S. 500 (1979)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Helstoski, 442 U.S. 500 (1979)

United States v. Helstoski

No. 78-546

Argued March 27, 1979

Decided June 18, 1979

442 U.S. 500

Syllabus

Petitioner, then a Member of Congress, was indicted in 1976 for conspiring to solicit and accept, and for soliciting and accepting, bribes in return for being influenced in the performance of official acts, namely, the introduction of certain private bills in the House of Representatives. He moved in District Court to dismiss the indictment on the ground, inter alia, that the indictment violated the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution because the grand jury had heard evidence of legislative acts, but the motion was denied. Thereafter, he petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for a writ of mandamus directing the District Court to dismiss the indictment. The court declined to issue the writ, holding that the indictment did not violate the Speech or Debate Clause.

Held: Mandamus was not the appropriate means of challenging the validity of the indictment on the ground that it violated the Speech or Debate Clause. Direct appeal to the Court of Appeals was available, and was the proper course. Pp. 442 U. S. 505-508.

(a) Once the motion to dismiss the indictment was denied, there was nothing further petitioner could do under the Speech or Debate Clause in the trial court to prevent the trial, and an appeal of the ruling was clearly available. Cf. Abney v. United States,431 U. S. 651. Pp. 442 U. S. 506-507.

(b) The Speech or Debate Clause was designed to protect Congressmen "not only from the consequences of litigation's results, but also from the burden of defending themselves." Dombrowski v. Eastland,387 U. S. 82, 387 U. S. 85. Pp. 442 U. S. 507-508.

(c) If a Member of Congress

"is to avoid exposure to [being questioned for acts done in either House], and thereby enjoy the full protection of the [Speech or Debate] Clause, his . . . challenge to the indictment must be reviewable before . . . exposure [to trial] occurs."

Abney, supra at 431 U. S. 662. P. 442 U. S. 508.

(d) Petitioner cannot be viewed as being penalized for failing to anticipate the decision in Abney, since the controlling law of the Third

Page 442 U. S. 501

Circuit was announced at the time of the District Court's order denying dismissal of the indictment, see United States v. DiSilvio, 520 F.2d 247, and the holding in Abney did no more than affirm the correctness of that holding. P. 442 U. S. 508.

576 F.2d 511, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 442 U. S. 508. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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