Rep. Richmond Introduces Bill to Establish Greater Accountability for U.S Attorney’s Office

May 6, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA-02) introduced the Inspector General Access Act of 2015. The bill grants the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) the authority to investigate alleged misconduct committed by Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys when they act in their capacity as lawyers. Currently, this role is exclusively reserved for DOJ’s own Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Unlike DOJ-OIG, OPR is not an independent entity.  The IG is confirmed by the Senate and accountable to Congress. OPR Counsel is selected and appointed by the Attorney General, answers to the Attorney General, and can be removed or disciplined by the Attorney General:

“The report by OPR regarding the misconduct at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana illustrated that a greater level of oversight is necessary to avoid any future impropriety,” said Rep. Richmond. “By transferring the responsibility to investigate misconduct by DOJ attorneys to the DOJ-OIG, we hope to bring a greater level of transparency and accountability to DOJ operations. From 2002 through 2013, OPR documented more than 650 infractions, including allegations that federal attorneys intentionally misled courts and alleged abuses of the grand jury or indictment process. In the majority of the matters OPR categorized the violations as recklessness or intentional misconduct, as distinct from error or poor judgment.  However, DOJ does not make public the names of attorneys who acted improperly or the defendants whose cases were affected. Also, OPR’s reports are not available for public review. They are only available by FOIA request and even then they are often heavily redacted. As a result, DOJ, its lawyers, and the internal watchdog office itself are shielded from public scrutiny and responsibility. This legislation will restore public trust by providing the necessary checks and balances. “

“Far too often we are reminded of the imbalances within the justice system. Individuals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana intentionally misled a federal judge, OPR officials, and their superiors but have yet to face significant penalties. If a target of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was caught lying to federal officials, attorneys would do everything in their power to exact penalty.  There must be equal justice under the law.”

“These acts of impropriety carried out by employees of the U.S. Attorney’s office have caused irreparable harm to the families of victims, people who sought justice, and the citizens of Louisiana, who will now have to relive some of the darkest moments in our state’s recent history. It is incumbent upon attorneys throughout the DOJ to live up to the high standards expected of the agency so that it can maintain the confidence of the public it serves.”