[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied [order list, PDF] an appeal by Senator Bob Menendez [official profile] in a bribery and fraud case. The appeal argued that Menendez's alleged conduct was immune from legal scrutiny because it fell under "the sphere of legitimate legislative activity," which is protected by the Speech or Debate Clause [text] of the US Constitution. The court refused to hear the case without explanation. Menendez, who is accused of accepting gifts in exchange for political influence, claims his meetings with government officials were to discuss policy and not for the purpose of garnering gifts and monetary contributions. Menendez was charged [ABC report] with 14 counts of bribery in April, after a three-year investigation by the Justice Department. According to a statement [text] released by Menendez's attorney, "Sen. Menendez remains confident that he will be vindicated when all the facts are heard at trial."
The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in July refused to dismiss [opinion, PDF] bribery and fraud charges levied against Menendez. In denying Menendez's motion [JURIST report] for dismissal, the court stated "the acts alleged in this case were essentially lobbying on behalf of a particular party and thus, under specific circumstances here, are outside of constitutional harbor," granted by the Speech or Debate clause, which protects legislators from legal redress for legitimate legislative activities. The senator's indictment [text, PDF] alleges that he accepted approximately $1 million in gifts and campaign contributions from his friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for using his political power to benefit the doctor.