as long as they have some reference to the subject of the inquiry. Id., comment c. Volunteered statements relevant to the inquiry are privileged. Id. Consistent with these principles, defamatory statements published in response to a question by a participant in the inquiry are necessarily within the privilege. Id. Indeed, to limit the privilege to communications directly responsive to a question would thwart the privilege's purpose in that it would render witnesses, uncertain as to what is and is not privileged, hesitant to provide information, and, to the extent that the limits of the privilege are discernable, deprive the examining body of useful and relevant information that is outside the precise bounds of the question. For the same reason, "communications preliminary to the proceeding" are expressly embraced by the privilege as defined in section 590A.
Although no hearings were taking place concerning the questions of the utility of the Webster-Heise device or the barrier syndrome at the time the memorandum was transmitted from Anderson to Lindahl, this nevertheless was a "communication preliminary to a proceeding." No hearing or other formal "proceeding" need be in existence at the time of the communication for the privilege to apply. See, e.g., Brody v. Montalbano, 87 Cal.App.3d 725, 151 Cal.Rptr. 206, 211 (1978), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 844, 100 S. Ct. 87, 62 L. Ed. 2d 57 (1979) (volunteered letter that initiated official inquiry privileged as "communication preliminary to a proceeding"). Certainly, a major purpose of the CRS is obtaining information that could be useful to Congress in future proceedings; as such, the policies behind the privilege set forth above apply to statements made to the CRS as well. Consequently, communications made to the CRS such as the memorandum at issue here are privileged if they have some relation to inquiries of the CRS within the scope of that agency's responsibilities to Congress as enumerated in 2 U.S.C. § 166(d). The remedy for a person defamed by such a communication to the CRS, therefore, is not money, but simply more speech -- he has the right to tell his side of the story to the agency.
The memorandum sent to Lindahl was relevant not only to his official CRS inquiries, but ultimately to actual legislative proceedings as well. Lindahl had expressed to Anderson his interest in what the Sun Company was doing in regard to the Webster-Heise device; the transmittal of the memorandum was part of Anderson's response. There is no doubt that Lindahl's research into the Webster-Heise device was part of his official duties as a CRS investigator: the development of energy-conserving devices and the energy industry's receptiveness to inventions by outsiders certainly were topics of potential interest to Congress. Indeed, the memorandum found its way to a subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, which considered it in its explorations of the "barrier syndrome." Moreover, as noted above, Lindahl presented his findings as to the utility of the device in an official CRS report. Accordingly, the transmittal of the memorandum falls within the common law privilege for communications to a legislative body.
2. Constitutional Considerations
The CRS's information-gathering function is also affected by considerations of the speech or debate clause. The power of congressional inquiry is a part of the legislative process protected by the speech or debate clause. Eastland v. United States Servicemen's Fund, 421 U.S. 491, 504-05, 95 S. Ct. 1813, 1821, 44 L. Ed. 2d 324 (1975); McSurely v. McClellan, 180 U.S. App. D.C. 101, 553 F.2d 1277, 1286-87 (D.C.Cir.1976) (en banc). Moreover, the protections of the clause extend to activities performed by congressional aides if such activities, were they performed by Members of Congress themselves, would be privileged. McSurely v. McClellan, 553 F.2d at 1284-85. In the proper case, this includes the "acquisition of knowledge through informal services" -- which is the means by which Lindahl received the memorandum. Tavoulareas v. Piro, 527 F. Supp. 676, 680 (D.D.C.1981), quoting McSurely v. McClellan, 553 F.2d at 1287. As such, if applicable, this privilege would protect Lindahl's receipt, rather than Anderson's transmission of the memorandum.
In his well-reasoned opinion in Tavoulareas, Judge Gasch marked the limits of the speech or debate clause privilege as it applies to the formal and informal acquisition of information by congressional staff. The "mere passive receipt by congressional staff of information voluntarily proffered by various sources" is not within the privilege, since such is not "an integral part of the deliberative and communicative processes" in which congressmen participate in the course of considering legislation and other congressional activities. 527 F. Supp. at 680. Judge Gasch concluded that
the finite limits [sic] of the speech or debate clause's shield, with regard to the information-gathering function of Congress, is the point at which congressional staff cease to be the active catalyst that induces the provision of particular information to Congress and become, instead, the passive recipient of information provided by an outside source at the source's own election.
Id. Some "active intervention by a congressional staff member inducing the provision of information in some manner" is necessary for such data to constitute information "acquired" pursuant to Congress' investigatory power. Id. at 680-8l.
In the case at hand, Lindahl was the "active catalyst" that prompted Anderson to supply the memorandum about the Webster-Heise device. Accordingly, Lindahl's receipt of the memorandum from Anderson was still well within the bounds of the speech or debate clause privilege as defined in the Tavoulareas opinion.
Unlike the speech or debate clause, which protects Congress' ability to acquire information, the right to petition of the first amendment is concerned with a citizen's ability to communicate information to Congress. However, as Anderson's communication of the memorandum to Lindahl is protected by the common-law privilege, whether it is protected by the right to petition as well need not be addressed here.
In light of the foregoing, defendants' motion for summary judgment shall be and hereby is granted and the cause dismissed. Accordingly, defendants' alternative motion to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Webster-Heise Corporation shall be and hereby is dismissed as moot. A judgment consistent with this Memorandum Opinion and Order shall be entered this date.
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