Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Chuck Grassley
Posted on 2013-03-14
S. 575. A bill to amend title 28, United States Code, to provide an
Inspector General for the judicial branch, and for other purposes; to
the Committee on the Judiciary.
Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, today I am reintroducing the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act, a bill that would establish within the judicial branch an Office of Inspector General to assist the Judiciary with its ethical obligations as well as to ensure taxpayer dollars are not lost to waste, fraud, or abuse. Representative Sensenbrenner is introducing the companion bill in the House. This bill will help make sure that our Federal judicial system remains free of corruption, bias, and hypocrisy.
The facts demonstrate that the institution of the Inspector General has been crucial in detecting, exposing and deterring problems within our government. The job of the Inspector General is to be the first line of defense against fraud, waste and abuse. In collaboration with whistleblowers, Inspectors General have been extremely effective in their efforts to expose and help correct these wrongs.
That is why, during my 30 years in Congress I have worked hard to strengthen the oversight role of Inspectors General throughout the Federal Government. I have come to rely on IGs and whistleblowers to ensure that our tax dollars are spent according to the letter and spirit of the law. When that doesn't happen, we in Congress need to know about it and take corrective action.
During the past fiscal year, Congress appropriated nearly $7 billion in taxpayer money to the Federal judiciary. To put this in context, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, and the Corporation for National and Community Service each received a similar or less amount than the judiciary. Yet all three of these entities have an Office of Inspector General. If we in Congress believed that these entities could use an Inspector General, I cannot see why the Judiciary wouldn't deserve the same assistance.
But there is an additional reason why the Judiciary needs an Inspector General. The fact remains that the current practice of self- regulation of judges with respect to ethics and the judicial code of conduct has time and time again proven inadequate. I would point out to my colleagues two recent events here in the Senate that support this conclusion.
In the past 5 years, the Senate received articles of impeachment for not one but two Federal judges. In the first case, former Judge Samuel B. Kent, although charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, pled guilty to obstruction of justice. Who did he obstruct? [[Page S1862]] Who did he lie to? He did this to his fellow judges, who were assembled to investigate the allegations of his obscene and criminal behavior. But it took a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice to uncover his false statements to his colleagues as well as substantiate the horrendous claims made against him.
In the second case, the Senate found that former Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. was guilty of a number of things, including accepting money from attorneys who had a case pending before him in his court and committing perjury by falsifying his name on bankruptcy filings. Once again, this Judge's misbehavior came to light through a Federal criminal investigation, after which another judicial committee had to be organized to investigate their fellow judge.
What's more, in each case the disgraced judge tried to game the system in order to retain his $174,000 salary. Rather than resign their commissions, each first tried to claim disability status what would allow each to continue to receive payment, even if in prison. Then both played chicken with Congress daring us to strip them of their pay by impeaching and convicting them. I am pleased that we put our foot down and said ``No.'' The judicial misconduct committees are simply inadequate for investigating claims of misconduct. These judges are not given the resources necessary nor do they have the expertise in conducting a complete investigation. They cannot, despite their best intentions, remove the inherent biases that develop from working closely with other judges. This duty would be better suited to an independent entity within the Judiciary.
The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act is the answer. This bill would establish an Office of Inspector General for the judicial branch. The IG's responsibilities would include conducting investigations of possible judicial misconduct, investigating waste fraud and abuse, and recommending changes in laws and regulations governing the Federal judiciary. The bill would require the IG to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on its activities, as well as refer matters that may constitute a criminal violation to the Department of Justice. In addition, the bill establishes whistleblower protections for judicial branch employees.
Ensuring a fair and independent judiciary is critical to our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Judges are supposed to maintain impartiality. They are supposed to be free from conflicts of interest. An independent watchdog for the Federal judiciary will help its members comply with the ethics rules and promote credibility within the judicial branch of government. Whistleblower protections for judiciary branch employees will help keep the judiciary accountable. The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act will not only ensure continued public confidence in our Federal courts and keep them beyond reproach, it will strengthen our judicial branch.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows: S. 575 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2013''.
SEC. 2. INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR THE JUDICIAL BRANCH.
(a) Establishment and Duties.--Part III of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``CHAPTER 60--INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR THE JUDICIAL BRANCH ``Sec.
``1022. Appointment, term, and removal of Inspector General.
``1026. Whistleblower protection.
``Sec. 1021. Establishment ``There is established for the judicial branch of the Government the Office of Inspector General for the Judicial Branch (in this chapter referred to as the `Office').
``Sec. 1022. Appointment, term, and removal of Inspector General ``(a) Appointment.--The head of the Office shall be the Inspector General, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the United States after consultation with the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives.
``(b) Term.--The Inspector General shall serve for a term of 4 years and may be reappointed by the Chief Justice of the United States for any number of additional terms.
``(c) Removal.--The Inspector General may be removed from office by the Chief Justice of the United States. The Chief Justice shall communicate the reasons for any such removal to both Houses of Congress.
``Sec. 1023. Duties ``With respect to the judicial branch, the Office shall-- ``(1) conduct investigations of alleged misconduct in the judicial branch (other than the United States Supreme Court) under chapter 16 that may require oversight or other action within the judicial branch or by Congress; ``(2) conduct investigations of alleged misconduct in the United States Supreme Court that may require oversight or other action within the judicial branch or by Congress; ``(3) conduct and supervise audits and investigations; ``(4) prevent and detect waste, fraud, and abuse; and ``(5) recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the judicial branch.
``Sec. 1024. Powers ``(a) Powers.--In carrying out the duties of the Office, the Inspector General shall have the power to-- ``(1) make investigations and reports; ``(2) obtain information or assistance from any Federal, State, or local governmental 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 councils of circuits, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, and the United States Sentencing Commission; ``(3) require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance and testimony of such witnesses, and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents, which subpoena, in the case of contumacy or refusal to obey, shall be enforceable by civil action; ``(4) administer to or take from any person an oath, affirmation, or affidavit; ``(5) employ such officers and employees, subject to the provisions of title 5, governing appointments in the competitive service, and the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates; ``(6) obtain services as authorized by section 3109 of title 5 at daily rates not to exceed the equivalent rate for a position at level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of such title; and ``(7) the extent and in such amounts as may be provided in advance by appropriations Acts, to enter into contracts and other arrangements for audits, studies, analyses, and other services with public agencies and with private persons, and to make such payments as may be necessary to carry out the duties of the Office.
``(b) Chapter 16 Matters.--The Inspector General shall not commence an investigation under section 1023(1) until the denial of a petition for review by the judicial council of the circuit under section 352(c) of this title or upon referral or certification to the Judicial Conference of the United States of any matter under section 354(b) of this title.
``(c) Limitation.--The Inspector General shall not have the authority to-- ``(1) investigate or review any matter that is directly related to the merits of a decision or procedural ruling by any judge, justice, or court; or ``(2) punish or discipline any judge, justice, or court.
``Sec. 1025. Reports ``(a) When To Be Made.--The Inspector General shall-- ``(1) make an annual report to the Chief Justice and to Congress relating to the activities of the Office; and ``(2) make prompt reports to the Chief Justice and to Congress on matters that may require action by the Chief Justice or Congress.
``(b) Sensitive Matter.--If a report contains sensitive matter, the Inspector General may so indicate and Congress may receive that report in closed session.
``(c) Duty To Inform Attorney General.--In carrying out the duties of the Office, the Inspector General shall report expeditiously to the Attorney General whenever the Inspector General has reasonable grounds to believe there has been a violation of Federal criminal law.
``Sec. 1026. Whistleblower protection ``(a) In General.--No officer, employee, agent, contractor, or subcontractor in the judicial branch may discharge, demote, threaten, suspend, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of any lawful act done by the employee to provide information, cause information to be provided, or otherwise assist in an investigation regarding any possible violation of Federal law or regulation, or misconduct, by a judge, justice, or any other employee in the judicial branch, which may assist the Inspector General in the performance of duties under this chapter.
[[Page S1863]] ``(b) Civil Action.--An employee injured by a violation of subsection (a) may, in a civil action, obtain appropriate relief.''.
(b) Technical and Conforming Amendment.--The table of chapters for part III of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``60. Inspector General for the judicial branch.............1021''.....