Republicans in Congress want to create a new government watchdog to police the conduct of federal judges, the Washington Wire political blog of the Wall Street Journal reports. Two bills call for an inspector general’s office with subpoena power to investigate any federal jurist suspected of breaking the law, but not to second-guess judges’ court rulings.
The bills differ on whether the new office would have jurisdiction over the Supreme Court. The House version, introduced by Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, would exempt the nation’s highest court from investigations on the theory that Congress has no constitutional authority to monitor its ethics. There is no such exemption in the Senate version, offered by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Charges that some judges legislate from the bench — using rulings to make laws they want instead of simply interpreting the laws that exist — emanate from both liberal and conservative camps. One liberal group, Common Cause, voiced support for the idea of an official judicial watchdog. But the new office would not probe complaints about judicial activism per se, unless they related to actual evidence of corruption, such as a judge ruling on a case in which he has some undisclosed personal interest.
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