|Lawyers for U.S. Rep. William Jefferson appealing to full 4th Circuit to have charges dropped|
by Bruce Alpert, The
Wednesday November 26, 2008, 2:43 PM
WASHINGTON - Citing constitutional issues of "exceptional importance," Rep. William Jefferson's attorneys Wednesday asked the full 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to consider dropping 14 of the 16 criminal charges pending against their client.
In effect, the New Orleans Democrat is asking the entire appeals court, based in Richmond, Va., to overrule a unanimous ruling issued by a panel of three of its own.
That panel recently rejected the argument that a Virginia grand jury improperly indicted Jefferson because it heard testimony about his congressional duties in violation of a constitutional clause that protects Congress from interference by the Executive branch.
The request to the full 4th Circuit is a long shot, given that the appeals court only reviews a tiny percentage of cases a year, sometimes as few as one to five. It currently has 11 active judges and is considered one of the nation's most conservative appellate courts.
Jefferson's lawyers, led by Robert Trout, said in a filing Wednesday that such a review is warranted because the three-judge panel's decision was "in direct conflict" with decisions by other U.S. appeals' courts.