by Jonathan Hughes [1] (Attorney Profile)
Bose McKinney & Evans, LLP
111 Monument Circle, Suite 2700
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 684-5381
jhughes@boselaw.com


“To preserve legislative independence, . . .‘legislators engaged in the sphere of legitimate legislative activity should be protected not only from the consequences of litigation’s results but also from the burden of defending themselves.’” [2].

“Private lawsuits threaten to chill robust representation by encouraging legislators to avoid controversial issues or stances in order to protect themselves.” [3].

“We are governed by laws, not by the intentions of legislators.” [4].

“[I]t simply is not consonant with our scheme of government for a court to inquire into the motives of legislators . . . .” [5].

“All politics is local.” [6].  Former Speaker of the House Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill used these words to remind federal politicians to “pay attention to their own backyards and take care of their folks.” [7].  The concept also carries a broader meaning – that local legislative actors are most intimately entrusted with providing services to the public.  Often, local legislative actors are not afforded the opportunity to focus solely on their legislative jobs.  Their role as town council member, city council member, or state legislator is often only a part-time job for which they must supplement their salary with other work.  Federal legislators, on the other hand, are afforded full-time jobs and a staff to assist them in performing their functions.  In this context, when a city or town is sued for taking some legislative action, the local legislator should be protected from judicial inquiry to the same extent as the federal legislator.  Unfortunately, a circuit split has developed, with some federal courts providing a lesser legislative immunity to local legislators than is provided to federal legislators.