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Ethics Tutorial - Colorado General Assembly

- Legislative Immunity - 19 of 25


Legislative immunity, which is provided to members of the Colorado General Assembly by article V, section 16 of the state constitution, is designed to preserve the integrity of the legislative process and protect the legislative branch from intimidation by the executive and judicial branches of government and private parties.  It grants legislators immunity from civil lawsuits and state criminal prosecution, but not federal criminal prosecution, and a privilege against being compelled to testify or produce documents in legal proceedings with respect to matters that fall within the "sphere of legitimate legislative activity."  The "sphere of legitimate legislative activity" includes actions taken during official legislative proceedings conducted in accordance with constitutional procedural requirements and other activities that are integral to the legislative (i.e., lawmaking) function but does not include actions taken outside of official legislative proceedings that are not integral to the legislative function.


Defamation - legislator to legislator statements

During heated floor debate on a bill that would repeal all state restrictions on large-capacity ammunition magazines, a legislator who opposes the bill claims that the bill sponsor is only carrying the bill because a Colorado-based firearms manufacturer bribed him.


Does legislative immunity protect the legislator who made the accusation of bribery from liability in a civil lawsuit for defamation filed by the bill sponsor?
Select No, because the legislator accused the bill sponsor of bribery, a crime that is a felony, legislative immunity does not apply.
Select No, because the purpose of legislative immunity is to protect the General Assembly from intimidation by the executive and judicial branches of government and private parties, it does not apply to a statement made or other action taken by a legislator against another legislator.
Select Yes, because a legislator who takes bribes directly impacts the integrity of the legislative process, it is important to allow other legislators to "blow the whistle" without fear of legal repercussions if they think that another legislator is taking a bribe, even if the charge later proves false.
Select Yes, because the legislator made the claim during an official legislative proceeding while acting as a lawmaker, legislative immunity protects the legislator from liability in a civil lawsuit for defamation filed by the bill sponsor.

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Last updated: 09 OCT 2015

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