Congressman must pay fellow congressman $1 mil in legal fees

Things could be a little tense in the congressional lunchroom.

Today a federal judge ordered Rep. Jim McDermott (right) to pay more than $1 million in legal fees to his colleague, House Minority Leader John Boehner (left).

For more than a decade McDermott, a Washington Democrat, and Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, had been locked in a bitter legal battle over an illegally taped phone call. The call, a discussion between House Republicans about an ethics case, was recorded and leaked to the press by McDermott in 1996. Boehner sued, and was ultimately successful as a federal court ruled against McDermott’s claim of a First Amendment right to release the taped conversation.

“Congressman McDermott broke the law, and as a result, he shattered the bonds of trust between our institution and the men and women we represent in the halls of Congress. I remained committed to this case in order to begin restoring those bonds, and to uphold the belief that no one – not even a member of Congress – is above the law,” Boehner said in a statement.

McDermott called the award of legal fees “a small price to pay in defense of so fundamental a principle, and freedom, as the First Amendment.”

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