Ross, Raskin, Issa, Maloney, Connolly and Hice Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Allow Independent Oversight of DOJ Attorneys
Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2021)— Today, Reps. Deborah Ross, Jamie Raskin, and Darrell Issa, along with Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, and Ranking Member Jody B. Hice introduced the bipartisan Inspector General Access Act to expand the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ IG) to include investigating allegations of DOJ attorney misconduct.
“Ensuring accountability at the DOJ is vital to a fair legal system,” said Congresswoman Ross. “The IG Access Act is commonsense legislation that will close an unnecessary loophole. As an attorney, I understand how important transparency in the law is and I’m honored to join my colleagues in re-introducing this bipartisan bill.”
“Over the past few years, we have seen the need for the DOJ Inspector General to have the ability to exercise greater oversight authority over DOJ attorneys,” said Rep. Raskin. “I am thrilled to co-lead this bipartisan, bicameral effort, and look forward to seeing this key piece of legislation enacted as we work to rebuild the credibility and protect the legacy of DOJ.”
“The mission of every Inspector General is to provide a critical check on government misconduct and essential transparency that backs up the people’s right to know. With this bipartisan reform, the Congress is appropriately empowering this unique tool of oversight and accountability,” said Rep. Issa.
“I am pleased to support this bipartisan effort to close a loophole in the law and strengthen the authority of the DOJ Inspector General,” said Chairwoman Maloney. “This reform ensures that all DOJ employees are subject to independent oversight for misconduct, and I look forward to the Oversight Committee and the House passing it again on a bipartisan basis, as we have done in the past under Committee chairs of both parties.”
“Our government is founded upon transparency and accountability, and it is imperative that an Office of Inspector General have the authorities and tools it needs to root out fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement,” said Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman Connolly. “This important piece of legislation fixes a long-standing issue that will enable the DOJ IG to more effectively do their job.”
“The Department of Justice must be held to the highest standards and the most public scrutiny, said Ranking Member Hice. “Currently, the Office of Professional Responsibility has exclusive jurisdiction over DOJ attorneys, but it lacks the independence, transparency and accountability needed. This office has investigated hundreds of infractions over the last twenty years, yet the Department refuses to release the names of these attorneys or the cases they affected. Prosecutors are not infallible, and there must be an independent watchdog to investigate misconduct. I have proudly supported the Inspector General Access Act since 2015, and I am very pleased to see it being again reintroduced with bipartisan support.”
Currently, DOJ IG has no independent authority to investigate professional misconduct by DOJ lawyers. The DOJ IG is the only Inspector General with such a jurisdictional limitation. The Inspector General Access Act would close this loophole, which currently leads to a double standard where every DOJ employee—including FBI and DEA agents, U.S. Marshals, and federal prison guards—except DOJ attorneys can be investigated by the DOJ Inspector General. As DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz testified before Congress in 2017:
“This bifurcated jurisdiction creates a system where misconduct by FBI agents and other DOJ law enforcement officers is conducted by a statutorily-independent IG appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, while misconduct by DOJ prosecutors is investigated by a component head who is appointed by the Department’s leadership and who lacks statutory independence.”
The legislation passed the House unanimously last Congress in January 2019. The Senate companion bill, led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT), is supported by six Republican and six Democratic Senators.
The Senate bill, which is identical to the House version introduced today, is supported by a broad coalition of advocates from across the political spectrum, including: American Civil Liberties Union, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Demand Progress, Due Process Institute, FreedomWorks, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, Innocence Project, Justice Action Network, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Taxpayers Union, Open the Government, Protect Democracy, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Public Citizen, R Street Institute, Right on Crime, and The Sentencing Project.
Click here to read the bill text.