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Jefferson requests return of files seized during congressional office raid

[JURIST] Attorneys for US Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) [official website] on Wednesday requested the return of the materials seized from the congressman's office [JURIST report] during an 18-hour raid in May 2006 by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] as part of an investigation into bribery allegations. Jefferson's defense team has argued that the search violated constitutional separation of powers principles that protect some legislative information from the executive branch of the government. Jefferson claims that nearly 19,000 documents and electronic files, including computer hard drives, seized by the DOJ fall under the separation of powers rubric, an argument made previously [JURIST report] by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The request was filed with the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals [official website], which in July 2006 ordered [JURIST report] the DOJ to suspend review of the seized materials until Jefferson has an opportunity to review them himself [remand order] to determine which might fall under the legislative privilege defined in the US Constitution's so-called Speech or Debate Clause [text].

Jefferson has not been charged with any crime, and has denied accusations that he took bribes from a Kentucky telecommunications company in exchange for brokering a deal with the government of Nigeria. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, and FBI Director Robert Mueller were among a host of government officials who said they would resign [JURIST report] if forced to hand back information gathered during the search, causing President Bush to order the documents to be sealed for 45 days [JURIST report] until the matter could be resolved. AP has more.

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