- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

A federal appeals court rejected Rep. Charles B. Rangel’s effort to overturn his 2010 censure by his House colleagues, saying Friday that they don’t have the power to get involved in a congressional dispute.

Mr. Rangel had said the censure was marred by secret communications among the staff investigators who pursued the case against him, and said that tainted his hearing, violating his due process rights. But the three-judge panel from the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Congress is allowed to set its own rules, and judges cannot get involved in this particular dispute.

Rangel must vindicate his reputation in the one court that can hear his claim: the court of public opinion,” wrote Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, in the unanimous decision.

Mr. Rangel’s lawyer hinted at an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The House voted overwhelmingly to censure Mr. Rangel after finding he broke House rules by failing to pay his taxes, receiving improper favors and wrongly soliciting donations to a charity project under his name.

Censure is a punishment between reprimand, which amounts to a stern letter, and expulsion, which kicks the lawmaker out of Congress. After a censure, the guilty lawmaker is made to stand in the well of the chamber while the findings are read against him. Twenty-two other House members have been censured throughout history.

Mr. Rangel said communications among the investigators showed they were biased against black lawmakers, and had made communications that would have been illegal if it had been a court trial.

Jay Goldberg, Mr. Rangel’s lawyer, said the ruling doesn’t challenge any of those claims, but instead put members of Congress beyond the reach of the law.

“The court did not deal with the critical issues of fairness in the procedure, even though Republican members of Congress met privately with members of [the ethics committee’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,” Mr. Goldberg said. “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.”

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