Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is Suing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Six Other Lawmakers

charlie_rangel2Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) was censured in late 2010 for ethics violations. The House Ethics Committee found Rangel guilty of 11 charges related to activity outside of the Capital. In 2010 Rangel was the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, but eventually stepped down after the ethics charges came to light, also after pressure from Democrats in the House to step down.

On Monday Rangel filed s a complaint against  Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.).

The complaint states:

House members who approved his censure were “knowingly deceived” by the committee leaders — including then-Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) — into thinking that the probe “had been conducted in accordance with procedural rules and the protection of [Rangel’s] constitutional rights,” the complaint adds.

“The court cannot, under the circumstances described above, leave undisturbed and without adequate remedy, a plaintiff who has been knowingly, intentionally and willfully denied his right to due process, the protection of his other fundamental rights and his protected liberty interest, where the House has been purposefully misled as described herein: he must have this court to repair to, in order to vindicate his constitutional rights,” Rangel’s complaint states.

The complaint cites several emails to Lofgren from R. Blake Chisam, the former chief counsel of the ethics panel — then known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — claiming that two staff attorneys conducting the Rangel investigation withheld information and broke other rules that might have led to a different verdict.

“The suppressed material would probably have led to a different outcome,” the complaint said.

The charges were quickly dissed:

A House GOP aide was quick to dismiss the suit on Monday.

“The House overwhelmingly voted to censure then-Chairman Rangel by a bipartisan vote of 333-79,” the aide said. “It’s sad that he has resorted to such tactics in the face of damning evidence.”

The complaint was filed in the federal court in Washington , DC. Although it is not unheard of that cases like Rangel’ are filed, court cases like this are very rare involving the court getting involved in House charges.

Cases like Rangel’s are “almost unheard of,” said Kenneth Gross, a Washington lawyer who specializes in political spending and ethics. “But as far as Congressman Rangel is concerned, the stakes are high because this has to do with his legacy.”

One of the best-known challenges of Congress’ authority to punish its own members involves Adam Clayton Powell, the scandal-plagued Harlem congressman that Rangel defeated in 1970.

In 1967, Powell’s House colleagues denied him his seat after a criminal contempt violation and allegations that he misused public funds. Powell’s legal challenge, which named then-House speaker John McCormack, other lawmakers and several congressional staffers, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices ruled in 1969 that Congress acted unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell from the U.S. House of Representatives.