Twenty Five Independent Legal Experts Now Agree That Issa Botched Contempt

Mar 26, 2014
Press Release
Twenty Five Independent Legal Experts Now Agree That Issa Botched Contempt

Experts Include Two Former House Counsels and Three Former Supreme Court Clerks

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 26, 2014)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released opinions from 25 legal experts across the country and the political spectrum concluding that Committee Chairman Darrell Issa compromised any House contempt action against former IRS official Lois Lerner when he rushed to adjourn the Committee’s hearing on March 5, 2014.

On March 12, Cummings released an independent legal analysis from two of the nation’s preeminent experts in Constitutional law and congressional contempt proceedings.  The analysis was authored by Morton Rosenberg, who served for 35 years as a Specialist in American Public Law at the Congressional Research Service (CRS), and was joined by Stan Brand, who served as House Counsel from 1976 to 1983 and “fully subscribes” to Mr. Rosenberg’s legal analysis and conclusions. 

Both experts reviewed the full Committee proceedings on March 5 when Issa abruptly adjourned the hearing without allowing any Democrats to speak, silenced Ranking Member Cummings’ microphone when he sought recognition for his turn for five minutes under House Rule XI, and made a slicing motion across his neck while ordering Republican staffers to “close it down.”  Issa later personally apologized to Cummings for his conduct.

Since the March 5 hearing, 23 additional legal experts have come forward with opinions agreeing that the contempt proceedings were deficient.  These include a second former House Counsel, three former clerks to Supreme Court justices, five former federal prosecutors, attorneys in private practice, and professors from law schools at Yale, Stanford, Duke, Georgetown, as well as the law schools of several Republican Members of the Oversight Committee, including Temple, University of South Carolina, George Washington, University of Georgia, and John  Marshall.

Today, Issa released an opinion he obtained yesterday from the House Counsel’s office making legal arguments in defense of his actions on March 5, after which Cummings issued the following statement:

“I have great respect for the House Counsel’s office and the difficult job they do, and it is certainly no surprise that they are now attempting to defend the actions of their client, Chairman Issa.  Unfortunately, this after-the-fact opinion is directly contradicted by Stan Brand, who previously served as House Counsel himself, by Mort Rosenberg, a Congressional Research Service expert with decades of experience, and by more than twenty independent legal experts.  It is a shame that Chairman Issa rejected a simple one-week delay in obtaining Ms. Lerner’s testimony, instead choosing to move forward with these partisan and deficient contempt proceedings.”

Click here to see all 25 expert legal opinions.

113th Congress