Rep. Dan Rostenkowski asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss all 17 criminal charges against him on grounds they violate the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers provision.
"This indictment has been constitutionally defective from its inception," said Dan K. Webb, the Illinois Democrat's chief lawyer. "The motions we have filed . . . will give the court the opportunity to . . . remedy this breach of the fundamental principles of constitutional law."Rostenkowski's lawyers filed a series of motions and arguments relying heavily on the constitutional provision allowing the two houses of Congress to police violations of their own rules.
Such constitutional arguments have had little recent success in criminal cases against members of Congress, but Webb said, "No previous charges ever brought against any member of the United States Congress have ever gone so far in violating the separation of powers doctrine."
The government's responses are due Sept. 2. Kevin Ohlson, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, said they would have no comment until then. U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson has said she will hear oral arguments on the motions later in September.
Rostenkowski was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when indicted on 17 counts.