876 F2d 897 Lee v. R Biden

876 F.2d 897

Unpublished Disposition

NOTICE: Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3 provides that dispositions other than opinions or orders designated for publication are not precedential and should not be cited except when relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel.

Monte LEE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Joseph R. BIDEN, Jr., et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 88-6341.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted* April 26, 1989.
Decided June 5, 1989.

Before SNEED, FLETCHER and DAVID R. THOMPSON, Circuit Judges.

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Monte Lee brought an action against the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, alleging that they illegally failed to investigate Lee's allegations of wrongdoing by Judge Anthony Kennedy during the Senate confirmation proceedings relating to the appointment of Judge Kennedy to the Supreme Court. The district court dismissed Lee's complaint, finding that he lacks standing, and that his claims are barred by the Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. Lee appeals. We affirm.




On April 18, 1988, Lee filed a complaint against the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, alleging that they violated Lee's rights during the course of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Nominee Anthony M. Kennedy. Lee alleged that the defendants failed to investigate adequately charges of wrongdoing by Judge Kennedy which Lee had presented to them. Lee's dissatisfaction with the qualifications of Judge Kennedy apparently arose from Judge Kennedy's participation in rulings by panels of this court unfavorable to Lee's interests.


On June 17, 1988, the defendants moved to dismiss. Adopting the recommendations of the magistrate, the district court dismissed Lee's action on the basis that Lee lacks standing, and on the basis that the action is barred by the Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution. Lee timely appeals. We review de novo both the district court's determination that Lee lacks standing, EMI Ltd. v. Bennett, 738 F.2d 994, 996 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1073 (1984), and its determination that the action is barred by the Speech or Debate Clause. See Miller v. Transamerican Press, Inc., 709 F.2d 524, 528-31 (9th Cir.1983).



A. Standing


The district court properly found that Lee lacks standing to pursue this action. The Supreme Court has held that generalized allegations of unlawful conduct are, in themselves, insufficient to confer standing. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 754-57 (1984). Beyond his generalized grievance, the only injury Lee has alleged is the financial loss he claims resulted from an adverse ruling by a panel of this court in which Judge Kennedy participated. This injury is not fairly traceable to the defendants. Rather, it resulted from the acts of third parties not involved in this suit. Therefore, Lee lacks standing to challenge the acts of the defendants. See Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 41-42 (1976).

B. Speech or Debate Clause


The Speech or Debate Clause of the United States Constitution provides that legislators "shall not be questioned in any other Place" for "any Speech or Debate in either House." U.S. Const. art. 1, Sec. 6, cl. 1. The Speech or Debate Clause provides absolute protection for senators and representatives for any actions taken within the sphere of legislative activity. Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 501 (1975). The power to investigate falls within the activities protected by this clause. Id. at 503-04.


Lee's complaint is based entirely on the defendants' failure to investigate allegations made by Lee during confirmation hearings on Judge Kennedy's appointment to the Supreme Court. Determinations by congressional committee members as to what matters within their jurisdiction merit further investigation are an integral part of the legislative process, and are protected from challenge through civil lawsuits by the Speech or Debate Clause.1 Id. The district court properly dismissed Lee's complaint.


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The panel finds this case appropriate for submission without oral argument pursuant to Fed.R.App.P. 34(a); Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the Courts of this Circuit except as provided by Circuit Rule 36-3


Lee's reliance on Hutchinson v. Proxmire, 443 U.S. 111 (1979) to support his contention that Speech or Debate clause immunity was lost when Senator Biden submitted to a newspaper a transcript of certain remarks made on the Senate floor is misplaced. Unlike the situation in Hutchinson, which involved allegations that the information released to the press was, itself, defamatory, the information released by Senator Biden does not relate directly to the subject matter of Lee's complaint. Senator Biden's release of the transcript therefore does not affect the immunity protecting the Senate Judiciary Committee's decision not to pursue an investigation of Lee's allegations