Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has introduced legislation today to “create an Inspector General for the Judicial Branch,” according to a press release from his office. It’s called the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act.
His bill would allow for oversight of federal and appellate courts as well as the Supreme Court. It would “put in place safeguards so inspectors general do not interfere with judicial decisions.”
A similar House bill introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would only cover federal and appellate courts.
- Establishes the Office of Inspector General for the Judicial Branch, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a specific term of service of four years. Gives the Chief Justice express authority to remove the Inspector General from office.
- Specifies duties of the Inspector General, which include (1) to conduct investigations of alleged misconduct of judges in the judicial branch (Senate version includes the Supreme Court), that may require oversight or other action by Congress; (2) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations; (3) to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse; and (4) to recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch.
- Provides powers for the Inspector General, which include (1) to make investigations and reports; (2) to obtain information or assistance from any Federal, State or local agency, or other entity, or unit thereof, including all information kept in the course of business by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judicial council of circuits, the administrative office of United States courts, and the United States Sentencing Commission; (3) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance for the taking of testimony of any witnesses and the production of any documents, which shall be enforceable by civil action; (4) to administer or to take an oath or affirmation from any person; (5) to employ officers and employees; (6) to obtain all necessary services; and (7) to enter into contracts or other arrangements to obtain services as needed.
- Requires the Inspector General to (1) to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on the Inspector General’s operations; (2) to make prompt reports to the Chief Justice and to Congress on matters which may require further action; and (3) to refer to the Department of Justice any matter that may constitute a criminal violation.
- Prohibits the Inspector General from investigating or reviewing the merits of a judicial decision. The investigatory powers of the Inspector General are limited to only alleged misconduct under the “Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980.”
- Requires the Inspector General to commence an investigation only after the judiciary has conducted its review of an ethical complaint under the 1980 Act.
- Establishes whistleblower protections for individuals within the Judicial Branch.