« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the state, thereby invoking the "benefits and privileges" of the state.
On July 28, 1981, the ABC employees filed a reply memorandum reiterating their contention that the plaintiff had failed to allege any jurisdictional facts which would bring them within the reach of any provision of the Maryland long-arm statute.
On August 3, 1981, Judge Northrop approved a stipulation further extending the time by which the Congressional defendants had to file their consolidated answer or other responsive pleading until 60 days after the Supreme Court either denied the petition for a writ of certiorari in the Benford case or granted the writ and issued its final mandate.
On August 14, 1981, a hearing was held on the defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint. On August 18, Judge Northrop filed a stipulation and order dismissing the case against defendants Arledge and Westin. On August 19, the judge signed an order denying the motions of defendants ABC, Osmer-McQuade, and Denenberg to dismiss and transferring the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Civil Action No. 81-0871-A)
On October 5, 1981, in the Virginia court, defendant Denenberg filed a new motion to dismiss the complaint claiming once again lack of personal jurisdiction over him.
On October 15, 1981, the plaintiff and defendants ABC, OsmerMcQuade, and Denenberg filed a joint motion to stay proceedings in the case (with the exception of the latter's motion to dismiss) until the Congressional defendants were required to file an answer or other responsive pleading. Noting that there was a common core of factual allegations between the instant case and the Benford case, the parties argued that judicial economy would be served by not proceeding until the Congressional defendants' Speech or Debate Clause l claims in Benford were resolved and the resulting implications became clear.
On October 23, 1981, following a hearing, U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan, Jr. issued an order: (1) denying the parties' joint motion for a stay; (2) vacating the August 3rd stipulation and directing the Congressional defendants to file their answer to the complaint within 30 days; and (3) granting defendant Denenberg's motion to dismiss with respect to Counts II, III, IV, and V, and denying it with respect to Count I (conspiracy).
Discovery subsequently began in the case, including requests for admissions and the production of documents served on certain of the Congressional defendants and a notice of deposition served on the Clerk of the House.
On November 13, 1981, the plaintiff filed a motion to amend the complaint to allege violations of Virginia law. After a hearing one week later, Judge Bryan denied the motion as untimely, particularly since the requested amendment might have injected new issues into the case.
On November 25, 1981, the Congressional defendants filed their answer to the complaint, asserting as defenses that: (1) the action was barred against them by the Speech or Debate Clause; (2) the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted; (3) the action was barred by the applicable statutes of limitations; (4) the Congressional defendants were protected for their acts by the doctrines of absolute official immunity and qualified official immunity; (5) the plaintiff had suffered no injury because of their acts and was entitled to no relief; (6) they had made no false or defamatory statements; (7) the action was barred by the doctrines of waiver and estoppel; (8) the court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit; (9) Count I failed to state a compensable claim for civil conspiracy because there was no combination of two or more persons to accomplish an unlawful object or a a lawful object by unlawful means; (10) the complaint did not state a cause of action under 18 U.S.C. 88 2510 et seq. insofar as it alleged a recording of the plaintiff's likeness on videotape and film, because there was no interception of any “oral communication" as the term was defined in the statute, and because any electronic interception was undertaken with the prior consent of one or more of the parties to the alleged conversations; and (11) Count IV failed to state a cause of action under the common law or statutory law of Virginia.
1 The Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, (U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives) shall not be questioned in any other Place." (art. I, 86, čl. 1)
On November 27, 1981, defendants ABC and Osmer-McQuade filed a motion for summary judgment and a supporting memorandum based on four arguments. First, they contended, the complaint was barred by the statute of limitations of the forum state, Virginia. In this case, the ABC defendants maintained, a one-year statute of limitations applied from the date of the accrual of the plaintiff's causes of actions (i.e., in November 1978) because the alleged injuries were not physical (requiring a two year statute of limitations) or to property (requiring five years). According to the defendants, even the allegation of damaged reputation, and concomitant loss of potential business, did not involve a cognizable property right under Virginia law.
Second, the ABC defendants maintained, the plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. With respect to the conspiracy count, they pointed out that their actions did not meet the standard of Virginia law, in particular because they were at no time acting to "accomplish an unlawful purpose". As to the alleged violation of the Federal eavesdropping statute, the ABC defendants argued that the plaintiff's claims did not come within 18 U.S.C. 98 2510 et seq. because the sections only applied to interception of oral and wire communications (and not to someone's "likeness” being recorded and later broadcast on television), and, in any event, because Congressional defendants Gardner and Dixon had consented to the recording of their conversations with the plaintiff as specifically allowed by the statute. With respect to the interference with business and invasion of privacy counts, the ABC defendants asserted that they were not cognizable under Virginia law. Finally, as to the defamation count, the defendants argued that they were entitled to a qualified "publisher's privilege” under common law, since the broadcasts were made in good faith and without malice.
Third, the ABC defendants contended, they were entitled to summary judgment because all the acts allegedly done by them were privileged under the First and Fourteenth Amendments' guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.
Fourth, the supporting memorandum argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over defendant Osmer-McQuade because she had not had the minimum contacts with Virginia necessary for the exercise of jurisdiction and the requirements of the state's long-arm statute had not been met.
On November 30, 1981, defendant Denenberg filed a motion for summary judgment on the one count of the complaint-alleging a conspiracy-remaining against him. In an accompanying memorandum and affidavit he stated that he knew nothing of the alleged surveillance or broadcast and did not agree with any of the other defendants to participate in either, and claimed as well that his involvement with the Select Committee was limited to testimony he gave under subpoena.
On December 1, 1981, the Congressional defendants filed their motion for summary judgment asserting that: (1) the complaint was barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (2) their conduct was absolutely privileged under the Speech or Debate Clause and the doctrine of legislative immunity; (3) their conduct was privileged under the doctrines of official and qualified immunity; and (4) the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
In a supporting memorandum, the Congressional defendants addressed each of these contentions in turn. With respect to the statute of limitations issue and the question of whether the complaint properly stated a claim upon which relief could be granted, they adopted the arguments of the ABC defendants and simply referenced the ABC summary judgment memorandum. (See supra, page 224.)
Turning to the question of Speech or Debate Clause immunity, the Congressional defendants argued that in Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 503 (1975) the Supreme Court had held that “once it is determined that Members (and aides) are acting within the 'legitimate legislative sphere' the ... Clause is an absolute bar to interference." They also noted that the Court had repeatedly ruled that the protections of the Clause adhered to the actions of congressional staff aides as well as to the Members themselves. Moreover, they argued, the Clause had traditionally been construed broadly, and clearly would reach the kind of investigative activity at issue in this case:
As the Supreme Court noted in Eastland, "The power to
lan, 553 F.2d 1277, 1287 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (en banc), cert. dis-
Congressional Defendants contend that their involvement
Summary Judgment, December 1, 1981, at 5–7] The Congressional defendants also took pains to distinguish the instant case from Benford insofar as a motion for summary judgment based on the Speech or Debate Clause was concerned:
In a recent decision in a separate civil action which has been filed in the aftermath of the Select Committee's inquiry and ABC's television coverage the Fourth Circuit has reaffirmed that "Liability may not be predicated on 'legislative acts' performed by the Congressional Defendants.” Benford v. American Broadcasting Company, No. 81-1200, June 17, 1981 (unpublished opinion at 3) (Exhibit F). In Benford the question was whether dismissal was warranted prior to any discovery. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that prior to any discovery, the record did not establish with sufficient strength to justify summary disposition that the Congressional Defendants involvement was a legislative act, but withheld that determination for de termination on a motion for summary judgment factually or at trial after Congressional Defendants demonstrate that their's was legislative. In the instant case, Congressional Defendants have been open to discovery and plaintiff has in fact taken several depositions. This discovery demonstrates that Congressional Defendants involvement was in furtherance of the Select Committee's objectives, and was undertaken pursuant to good faith reliance on
proper authorization. [Id. at 6) With respect to the doctrine of official immunity, the Congres sional defendants claimed that their actions were privileged in line with the Supreme Court's holding in Barr v. Matteo, 360 U.S. 569 574 (1959) that Federal officials were protected from common law tort suits based on actions performed by them within the “‘oute
perimeter' of (their) line of duty." While admitting that "not all conduct in any way related to the legislative process is within the legitimate legislative sphere for purposes of the Speech or Debate Clause," the Congressional defendants submitted that at a minimum the activities alleged in the complaint were within this "outer perimeter” of their line of duty and hence privileged. (Id. at 8]
If the court found that their actions were not within the Speech or Debate Clause or the doctrine of official immunity, the Congressional defendants argued, they were still entitled to qualified immunity from suit under Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478 (1978). They reasoned:
It has been held that "inapplicability of speech or debate
An official is entitled to qualified immunity if he acted
The affidavits and exhibits ... establish that it was within the Congressional Defendants official duties to gather information on various informal bases as a predicate to the Select Committee's legislative functions and to disseminate information to the media. Accordingly, "the acts alleged to be tortious were within the defendant's official duties" Evans v. Wright, 582 F.2d 20, 21 (5th Cir. 1978), and require, therefore, dismissal in recognition of the qualified immunity which may be determined on a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Butz v.
Economou, supra, 438 U.S. at 508. (Id. at 9-10) On December 7, 1981, the plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to the motions of the defendants for summary judgment. Initially responding to the statute of limitations argument, the plaintiff insisted that her personal injury due to embarrassment, humiliation, and mental anguish was not sustained until September 1980, and it was only then that her cause of action accrued. As to the damage to her business and estate, the plaintiff asserted that that injury was covered by the five year injury to property limitation period (which did not expire until November 1983).
Focusing next on the Speech or Debate Clause defense, the plaintiff asserted that it should be rejected because there was "a material issue of fact as to whether the Congressional defendants participation in the incident at bar was essential to the legislative process." (Memorandum of Points and Authorities . . . In Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, December 7, 1981, at 7] Furthermore, the plaintiff maintained, "violation of criminal statutes, conspiracy and the commission of common law torts, including invasion of privacy are not protected by the Speech or Debate Clause." (Id. at 8] The plaintiff also dismissed the immunity defense as inapplicable to her cause of action, and, in any event,