Justice IG calls for jurisdiction over attorneys

Lack of authority to oversee attorneys could impede ethics investigations, IG tells lawmakers.

Senators and witnesses at a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday debated the wisdom of expanding the jurisdiction of the Justice Department's inspector general to include the agency's attorneys.

Justice Department lawyers investigating, litigating and providing legal advice are exempt from IG oversight, and have been since the Inspector General Act was passed in 1978. Glenn Fine, the department's IG, said the loophole prevents the Office of the Inspector General "from investigating an entire class of misconduct allegations."

At the time the Inspector General Act was passed, the Justice Department received permission not to establish an IG office, because its Office of Professional Responsibility already handled allegations of misconduct. The department also argued that "because of its law enforcement and litigation functions, the Justice Department was different from other agencies and did not need an inspector general," Fine said in his testimony.

In 1989, the Justice Department established an IG office but limited its jurisdiction. The office has expanded its oversight to include law enforcement officers, including FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents. But allegations of attorney misconduct -- even for high-ranking attorneys such as the attorney general and the deputy attorney general -- still go to the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Fine's suggestions come at a critical time for the Justice Department, as allegations of attorney general and deputy attorney general misconduct arose in relation to the 2006 firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Investigations into those firings were assigned to the Office of Professional Responsibility, but the IG office appealed the assignment and assumed joint responsibility for the ongoing investigation.

Fine said the divided jurisdiction hampers impartial treatment of misconduct claims. "It permits an attorney general to assign an investigation that raises questions about his conduct to an entity that reports to and is supervised by the attorney general and lacks the independence guaranteed by the IG Act," Fine said. He also raised concerns that the Office of Professional Responsibility does not operate transparently or publicly release any of its reports.

"I agree with you," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the committee.

The committee called the hearing to examine potential barriers to the independence of IGs across government.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, said some inspector general offices do not have independent general counsels to provide legal advice.

Brian cited the Defense Department, where the IG relies on legal advice provided by the Pentagon's general counsel lawyers. The arrangement undermines the independence of the Defense Department's IG, since the Pentagon "general counsel's role is to protect the agency, whereas an IG's role is to investigate it," she said.

A former IG for the Defense Department, Eleanor Hill, said that while she hadn't had any problems working with Pentagon lawyers during her tenure, her situation "was unique," and that "as a rule, IGs should have their own general counsel."

The hearing also covered aspects of legislation (S.1723) that has been proposed to enhance the efficiency and independence of all inspector general offices. If passed, the measure would set a fixed term for IGs, raise salaries and permit IGs to submit budget requests directly to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget.

The provision to raise IG salaries -- which witnesses said often lag behind those of other senior executives -- won the support of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ranking member of the committee, who introduced a bill (S. 680) in February that would provide the pay raise. The other measures met with mixed reactions from both senators and witnesses.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.