May 08, 2015, 12:27 pm

Rangel loses court appeal of 2010 censure

By Cristina Marcos

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A D.C. federal appeals court ruled Friday that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) cannot challenge his 2010 full House censure over ethics violations.

Rangel filed a lawsuit against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and members of the House Ethics Committee in 2013, arguing the proceedings that led to his censure were biased against him and lacked due process.

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold a U.S. district judge's 2013 dismissal of Rangel's complaint on the grounds that it didn't fall in federal courts' jurisdiction.

"Rangel must vindicate his reputation in the one court that can hear his claim: the court of public opinion," Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the opinion."Public service has its benefits and its burdens. Congressmen, for example, enjoy absolute immunity from suit for their conduct in the legislative arena. That same immunity, however, prevents them from airing their legislative disagreements in a judicial forum," Henderson wrote.

The House Ethics Committee determined in 2010 that Rangel, the former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, had committed 11 ethical violations that included failing to disclose financial information and pay taxes.
Later that year, the full House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel.

Rangel filed a lawsuit challenging his censure after Politico in 2011 published a leaked memo that claimed two Ethics Committee staffers improperly shared information about Rangel with the panel's Republicans.

Rangel's lawyer, Jay Goldberg, argued that the court didn't address the fairness of complaints from former Ethics Committee staff director Blake Chisam that attorneys improperly shared information regarding the cases against Rangel and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

"The court did not deal with the critical issues of the procedure, even though Republican Members of Congress met privately with members of Mr. Chisam’s staff, acted out of prejudice for blacks, and wholly ignored the overriding principle that there has to be fairness in the conduct of these affairs," Goldberg said in an email.

Goldberg indicated that the case could next go before the Supreme Court.

"There is no case in the Supreme Court or otherwise that gives a blank ticket of protection to Members of Congress sitting on such a panel. The next step is to seek relief from the Supreme Court on this case of first impression," Goldberg said.
Rangel, whose Manhattan-area district includes Harlem and part of the Bronx, has served in the House since 1971.