Suppose a Senator, Representative, non-voting delegate, or their staff makes a disclosure in their their official capacity that violates an otherwise valid non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or other agreement. For example, suppose a person with knowledge of the Coca-Cola formula was elected as a Senator and disclosed the trade secret formula in a floor speech on the Senate. Would this subject the Senator to liability for violating their non-disclosure agreement?

I would be interested in hearing an analysis would change if considering Congressional staff i.e. Gravel v. United States or even non-voting delegates.

Suppose an aide to the Joint Committee on Taxation discloses his intimate knowledge of a company’s corporate structure and tax avoidance strategies in order to propose legislation that removes these strategies. Or, for example, a former employee who is hired as a congressional aide violates an anti-disparagement clause with their former employer.

Would these disclosures be protected by the Speech and Debate Clause? Would the former employer be able to stop providing benefits it agreed to provide in a severance package in retaliation for such conduct (alleging breach of contract)?

1 Answer 1


This clause means that all members of Congress are provided

with general criminal and civil immunity for all 'legislative acts' taken in the course of their official responsibilities

so not only can they not be arrested or tried for anything that that say on the floor, they cannot be sued, see Eastland v. United States Servicemen’s Fund, 421 U.S. 491 and the holding that

The applicability of the Clause to private civil actions is supported by the absoluteness of the term "shall not be questioned" and the sweep of the term "in any other Place"

  • 1
    In this regard, to be clear, floor speeches are considered to be "legislative acts" within the meaning of the Speech and Debate clause (unsurprisingly given the language).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 1:07

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