Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz asked members of Congress Thursday to upgrade his authority and allow him to investigate allegations of professional misconduct involving government lawyers who are involved in official investigations, providing legal advice, and conducting litigation.
He told members of the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that the IG has the jurisdiction to review allegations of misconduct by non-attorneys in the DOJ, but not the ability to investigate misconduct by department attorneys, including federal prosecutors, when they are acting as lawyers, reported The Epoch Times.
Instead, the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) must assess allegations against department lawyers, including any claims made against the most senior department lawyers, even those in leadership.
"The DOJ's IG has long questioned this distinction between the treatment of misconduct by attorneys acting in their legal capacity and misconduct by others, a distinction not made in other federal agencies and a limitation not imposed on any other IG," he said.
But, he said there is no "principled reason" to send such cases to the OPR, which is overseen by the attorney general or the deputy attorney general, "whose leader is appointed by them and can be removed by them," Horowitz said. "I would venture to say that I doubt any member of Congress has ever been seen before you [the appointed head of OPR] to testify publicly."
This means there is a lack of transparency, he added.
"I know from speaking with prosecutors across the country, defense lawyers across the country, and various nongovernmental organizations, that their confidence in that oversight ability has been challenged over the years," said Horowitz.
He also said, while answering a question from subcommittee Chair Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., that not having authority to investigate lawyers impedes his office's ability to conduct oversight and creates several issues, including transparency and accountability.
"To my mind, transparency goes with accountability," he said. "Where you have transparency … transparency is the best disinfectant. If the public knows, if the lawyers in the department know that their misconduct is going to be public, I think that helps reform behavior, and it deters other folks."
The Inspectors General Act of 1978, signed into law by then-President Jimmy Carter, meant that the DOJ's IG is the only one of 72 statutory IGs that cannot investigate allegations of professional misconduct.
The House has supported changes in the law, but the Senate has not, Horowitz said.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.