Article updated at 4:15 p.m.
It's no Bush v. Gore, but today a federal court has ruled on another dispute between politicians, this one dating back to well before the 2000 election.
Rep. John Boehner, now the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives, won a 10-year legal dispute with Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott. This dispute was over a tape McDermott had obtained of Boehner discussing an ethics ruling with then Speaker Newt Gingrich and several other members of the Republican leadership. Boehner's complaint alleged that McDermott violated federal law when he disclosed the tape of an "illegally intercepted conversation."
Today, the court said there was no First Amendment right "to disclose the tape to the media." (See full opinion.)
McDermott had received a tape from John and Alice Martin, two Florida residents who had used a police radio to eavesdrop on the conversation; Boehner was on a cellphone talking to Gingrich from Florida at the time. The tape then headed to the office of Rep. Karen Thurman, which, upon consultation with lawyers, sent it back to the Martins and suggested it be given to the House Ethics Committee. That same day, Jan. 8, 1997, the Martins gave the tape in an envelope to McDermott, the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee at the time. A letter on the outside of the envelope said the tape had been made of a call overheard on a scanner. McDermott later called reporters at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times. The Times ran a front-page article on January 10.
In 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia had held McDermott didn't have a First Amendment right to disclose the tape; the case was then appealed to the Supreme Court and subsequently sent back down the legal chain. Boehner was awarded $60,000 in damages. The appeals court in 2006 ruled that McDermott hadn't lawfully obtained the tape.
Boehner's office issued a short statement shortly afterward in which the minority leaders is quoted saying, "As I've said many times: When you break the law in pursuit of a political opponent, you've gone too far." Mike DeCesare, a spokesman for McDermott, said there would be a statement later today.
Update (4:15 p.m. ET): In his own statement, McDermott describes the decision as having "sharply limited the free speech protections of the First Amendment in violation of binding Supreme Court precedent." He did not indicate whether he will appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court, a decision he and his legal counsel have 90 days to make.