Prosecutors, Schock fight over documents request

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WASHINGTON – Should federal prosecutors be able to demand the papers of a present or former member of the House of Representatives?

Yes, say federal prosecutors overseeing a criminal probe of former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill.

No, says Schock, backed up in court by lawyers representing a bi-partisan group of the very top House leaders.

When it comes to the matter of House members controlling their own papers, there is no partisan split.

The court fight over the production of documents comes as a grand jury in Springfield has been hearing testimony on Schock’s spending of government and campaign funds for almost four months.

Federal prosecutors based in Springfield are escalating their bid to force Schock to produce what they said in a court document filed on Thursday are “publicly-funded, non-private, Congressional and campaign records which reflect the expenditure of public funds.”

They asked U.S. District Court Judge Sue Myerscough to allow oral arguments on their motion to force Schock’s hand.

On Friday, Schock’s lawyers, addressing the procedure and process of the prosecutors demand, said in a motion filed with the court that the prosecutors did not follow court rules in pushing her for the oral argument.

In any event, Schock’s legal team asked the judge to drop what the government asked for on Thursday – or in the alternative, at least get a chance to reply.

Late on Friday, Myerscough handed down a split decision for Schock.

The judge declined to strike the prosecutors bid for oral arguments. But neither did she schedule them. She gave Schock’s lawyers until noon Thursday to file a reply.

All this legal wrangling over the production of documents – which has been going on for months – serves to keep pressure on Schock because it adds considerably to his growing legal bills.

The government earlier this summer asked the judge to hold Schock in civil contempt over the documents, with Schock in court two days in July. Schock’s lawyers have told the court they have been making arrangements to turn over some of the papers in question. The civil contempt request for now seems on a back burner.

Schock’s legal team has raised Fifth Amendment self-incrimination issues in preserving his right to control his papers.

Siding with Schock is an arm of the House of Representatives, the five-member “Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group.”

The group consists of Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.; Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.; Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Under House rules, this group has the power to tell the non-partisan office of the House General Counsel to take legal actions on behalf of the House.

In Schock’s case, the Bipartisan Legal group has filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing on his side when it comes to who controls documents generated by a House member.

Prosecutors, in their Thursday filing said “no court has recognized that a public official, specifically a U.S. Representative, has a constitutional right under the Fifth Amendment to avoid the compelled production of publicly-funded, non-private public or official records within his official specifically his official Congress office.”

On Friday, Schock’s legal team told the court in their motion, “despite all of the government’s hyperbole and linguistic histrionics, Mr. Schock’s legal position is simple, straightforward non-controversial, and amply supported by existing case law.”

The matter may present some novel questions for the court.

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