Opinion of the Court

408 U.S.

Section 201 applies to “public officials,” and that term is defined explicitly to include Members of Congress as well as other employees and officers of the United States. Subsections (c)(1) and (g) prohibit the accepting of a bribe in return for being influenced in or performing an official act. The ruling of the District Court here was that “the Speech [or] Debate Clause of the Constitution, particularly in view of the interpretation given ... in Johnson, shields Senator Brewster . from any prosecution for alleged bribery to perform a legislative act.” Since § 201 applies only to bribery for the performance of official acts, the District Court's ruling is that, as applied to Members of Congress, $ 201 is constitutionally invalid.

Appellee argues that the action of the District Court was not "a decision or judgment setting aside, or dismissing” the indictment, but was instead a summary judgment on the merits. Appellee also argues that the District Court did not rule that § 201 could never be constitutionally applied to a Member of Congress, but that "based on the facts of this case” the statute could not be constitutionally applied. Under United States v. Sisson, 399 U. S. 267 (1970), an appeal does not lie from a decision that rests, not upon the sufficiency of the indictment alone, but upon extraneous facts. If an indictment is dismissed as a result of a stipulated fact or the showing of evidentiary facts outside the indictment, which facts would constitute a defense on the merits at trial, no appeal is available. See United States v. Findley, 439 F. 2d 970 (CA1 1971). Appellee claims that the District Court relied on factual matter other than facts alleged in the indictment.

An examination of the record, however, discloses that, with the exception of a letter in which the United States briefly outlined the theory of its case against appellee, there were no “facts” on which the District Court could

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act other than those recited in the indictment. Appellee contends that the statement "based on the facts of this case,” used by the District Judge in announcing his decision, shows reliance on the Government's outline of its case.

We read the District Judge's reference to "facts,” in context, as a reference to the facts alleged in the indictment, and his ruling as holding that Members of Congress are totally immune from prosecution for accepting bribes for the performance of official, i. e., legislative, acts by virtue of the Speech or Debate Clause. Under that interpretation of $ 201, it cannot be applied to a Member of Congress who accepts bribes that relate in any way to his office. We conclude, therefore, that the District Court was relying only on facts alleged in the indictment and that the dismissal of the indictment was based on a determination that the statute on which the indictment was drawn was invalid under the Speech or Debate Clause. As a consequence, this Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.


The immunities of the Speech or Debate Clause were not written into the Constitution simply for the personal or private benefit of Members of Congress, but to protect the integrity of the legislative process by insuring the independence of individual legislators. The genesis of the Clause at common law is well known. In his opinion for the Court in United States v. Johnson, 383 U. S. 169 (1966), Mr. Justice Harlan canvassed the history of the Clause and concluded that it

"was the culmination of a long struggle for parliamentary supremacy.

Behind these simple phrases lies a history of conflict between the Commons and the Tudor and Stuart monarchs during which successive monarchs utilized the criminal and civil law to suppress and intimidate critical legisla

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tors. Since the Glorious Revolution in Britain, and throughout United States history, the privilege has been recognized as an important protection of the independence and integrity of the legislature.Id.,

at 178 (footnote omitted). Although the Speech or Debate Clause's historic roots are in English history, it must be interpreted in light of the American experience, and in the context of the American constitutional scheme of government rather than the English parliamentary system. We should bear in mind that the English system differs from ours in that their Parliament is the supreme authority, not a coordinate branch. Our speech or debate privilege was designed to preserve legislative independence, not supremacy. Our task, therefore, is to apply the Clause in such a way as to insure the independence of the legislature without altering the historic balance of the three co-equal branches of Government.

It does not undermine the validity of the Framers' concern for the independence of the Legislative Branch to acknowledge that our history does not reflect a catalogue of abuses at the hands of the Executive that gave rise to the privilege in England. There is nothing in our history, for example, comparable to the imprisonment of a Member of Parliament in the Tower without a hearing and, owing to the subservience of some royal judges to the 17th and 18th century English kings, without meaningful recourse to a writ of habeas corpus. In fact, on only one previous occasion has this Court ever

5 Cella, The Doctrine of Legislative Privilege of Freedom of Speech and Debate: Its Past, Present and Future as a Bar to Criminal Prosecutions in the Courts, 2 Suffolk L. Rev. 1, 15 (1968); Note, The Bribed Congressman's Immunity from Prosecution, 75 Yale L. J. 335, 337-338 (1965).

6 See C. Wittke, The History of English Parliamentary Privilege 23-32 (1921).

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interpreted the Speech or Debate Clause in the context of a criminal charge against a Member of Congress.

(a) In United States v. Johnson, supra, the Court reviewed the conviction of a former Representative on seven counts of violating the federal conflict-of-interest statute, 18 U. S. C. § 281 (1964 ed.), and on one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, 18 U. S. C. § 371. The Court of Appeals had set aside the conviction on the count for conspiracy to defraud as violating the Speech or Debate Clause. Mr. Justice Harlan, speaking for the Court, 383 U. S., at 183, cited the oft-quoted passage of Mr. Justice Lush in Ex parte Wason, L. R. 4 Q. B. 573 (1869):

"I am clearly of opinion that we ought not to allow it to be doubted for a moment that the motives or intentions of members of either House cannot be inquired into by criminal proceedings with respect to anything they may do or say in the

House.Id., at 577 (emphasis added). In Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U. S. 168 (1881), the first case in which this Court interpreted the Speech or Debate Clause, the Court expressed a similar view of the ambit of the American privilege. There the Court said the Clause is to be read broadly to include anything "generally done in a session of the House by one of its members in relation to the business before it." Id., at 204. This statement, too, was cited with approval in Johnson, 383 U. S., at 179. Our conclusion in Johnson was that the privilege protected Members from inquiry into legislative acts or the motivation for actual performance of legislative acts. Id., at 185.

In applying the Speech or Debate Clause, the Court focused on the specific facts of the Johnson prosecution. The conspiracy-to-defraud count alleged an agreement among Representative Johnson and three co

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defendants to obtain the dismissal of pending indictments against officials of savings and loan institutions. For these services, which included a speech made by Johnson on the House floor, the Government claimed Johnson was paid a bribe. At trial, the Government questioned Johnson extensively, relative to the conspiracy-to-defraud count, concerning the authorship of the speech, the factual basis for certain statements made in the speech, and his motives for giving the speech. The Court held that the use of evidence of a speech to support a count under a broad conspiracy statute was prohibited by the Speech or Debate Clause. The Government was, therefore, precluded from prosecuting the conspiracy count on retrial, insofar as it depended on inquiries into speeches made in the House.

It is important to note the very narrow scope of the Court's holding in Johnson:

“We hold that a prosecution under a general criminal statute dependent on such inquiries [into the speech or its preparation] necessarily contravenes the Speech or Debate Clause. We emphasize that our holding is limited to prosecutions involving circumstances such as those presented in the case

before us." 383 U. S., at 184–185. The opinion specifically left open the question of a prosecution which, though possibly entailing some reference to legislative acts, is founded upon a “narrowly drawn” statute passed by Congress in the exercise of its power to regulate its Members' conduct. Of more relevance to this case, the Court in Johnson emphasized that its decision did not affect a prosecution that, though founded on a criminal statute of general application, "does not draw in question the legislative acts of the defendant member of Congress or his motives for performing them.” Id., at 185. The Court did not

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