Grassley, Sensenbrenner See Need for Inspector General for the Judiciary
WASHINGTON --- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today re-introduced legislation in the Senate and House of Representatives to create an Inspector General for the Judicial Branch.
The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2007 is nearly identical to a bill that passed the House Judiciary Committee last September. The bills introduced today include language adopted by the House Judiciary Committee to address concerns raised during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. The only difference between the Senate and House bills is that the House bill covers only the federal district and appellate courts while the Senate bill also allows the Inspector General to investigate alleged misconduct within the Supreme Court.
Grassley and Sensenbrenner said an independent watchdog for the federal Judiciary is an important way to promote credibility within the judicial branch of government, especially in light of the Breyer Committee Report which highlighted problems with the way the federal judiciary has handled complaints about judicial ethics and misconduct.
“It’s been shown through press accounts and various reports that the federal judiciary is in need of some sunshine. An Inspector General can only help shed more light on the actions of the Judicial Branch and keep it accountable to the American people,” Grassley said. “An Inspector General can help root out potential waste, fraud and abuse, which to me seems very positive for the federal judiciary.”
"The creation of an Inspector General is not a radical idea," said Sensenbrenner. "Inspectors General exist in over 60 Executive agencies, boards and commissions, and in Congress as well. They shine a light on the internal operations of these entities in order to prevent fraud and improve efficiency and accountability. There is no reason why the Judicial Branch should be exempt from this type of oversight."
"In recent years, there have been numerous disturbing reports that Federal judges have violated ethical rules, including disclosure and recusal requirements for conflicts of interest, or engaged in judicial misconduct," Sensenbrenner continued. "These violations threaten a foundation of our judicial system: an unbiased, impartial arbiter. An IG will bolster this foundation by ensuring better compliance."
Grassley is a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Sensenbrenner is the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
Summary of The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2007
- Establishes the Office of Inspector General for the Judicial Branch, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a specific term of service of four years. Gives the Chief Justice express authority to remove the Inspector General from office.
- Specifies duties of the Inspector General, which include (1) to conduct investigations of alleged misconduct of judges in the judicial branch (Senate version includes the Supreme Court), that may require oversight or other action by Congress; (2) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations; (3) to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse; and (4) to recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch.
- Provides powers for the Inspector General, which include (1) to make investigations and reports; (2) to obtain information or assistance from any Federal, State or local agency, or other entity, or unit thereof, including all information kept in the course of business by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judicial council of circuits, the administrative office of United States courts, and the United States Sentencing Commission; (3) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance for the taking of testimony of any witnesses and the production of any documents, which shall be enforceable by civil action; (4) to administer or to take an oath or affirmation from any person; (5) to employ officers and employees; (6) to obtain all necessary services; and (7) to enter into contracts or other arrangements to obtain services as needed.
- Requires the Inspector General to (1) to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on the Inspector General's operations; (2) to make prompt reports to the Chief Justice and to Congress on matters which may require further action; and (3) to refer to the Department of Justice any matter that may constitute a criminal violation.
- Prohibits the Inspector General from investigating or reviewing the merits of a judicial decision. The investigatory powers of the Inspector General are limited to only alleged misconduct under the "Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980."
- Requires the Inspector General to only commence an investigation after the judiciary has conducted its review of an ethical complaint under the 1980 Act.
- Establishes whistleblower protections for individuals within the Judicial Branch.