The Supreme Court won’t consider throwing out corruption charges filed against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
Justices did not give any reasoning for not granting Menendez a hearing, as is the norm. The lawmaker’s appeal was one of many on Monday that the high court declined to hear.
The decision means prior rulings on the indictment will stand, and that a criminal trial can now proceed this fall. Last summer, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected Menendez’s arguments for dismissing the charges.
Menendez had said the “speech or debate” clause in the US constitution permitted his activity– lobbying on behalf of a wealthy donor. A three-judge panel rejected those arguments.
“Members of Congress are not to be ‘super-citizens’ immune from criminal liability,” Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro wrote.
Ambro added that: “the Speech or Debate privilege affords protection from indictment only for ‘legislative activity.’” Menendez, the court ruled, was not seeking “to engage in true legislative oversight or….broad matters of policy.”
Prosecutors first indicted Menendez in 2015, accusing of him of taking money to advance the interests of a wealthy donor in an $8.9 million Medicare-billing dispute. The trial is now set to commence on September 6, according to Philly.com.
As Reuters has pointed out, Menendez could be replaced by an appointee of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, if the senator “were forced to give up his seat.” Menendez has already responded to the charges by relinquishing his role as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
If Menendez is convicted and forced out of office after November, however, he might be replaced by a Democrat.
New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections are set to take place this fall, and while Christie isn’t standing for re-election, his Republican administration is widely despised by voters. Recent polling shows only 19 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Christie.