Professor Rotunda Testifies in Favor of Inspector General for Judicial Branch
On June 29, 2006, George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law Ronald D. Rotunda testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in favor of a bill that establishes an Inspector General for the judicial branch. H.R. 5219, the "Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2006," would establish an independent Inspector General (IG) for the judicial branch, modeled after Inspector Generals that exist for various executive branch departments. The Judicial IG would conduct investigations of matters relating to the judicial branch (other than the Supreme Court), including possible judicial misconduct that may require oversight or other action by Congress.
Excerpt from Professor Rotunda's testimony:
"Two general reactions have accompanied this bill. I think first people ask why we've waited so long to have an inspector general for the court. It exists throughout the executive branch. There are now 57 statutory inspectors general, plus others done by regulation.
"The duties are to prevent fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct, report violations of civil rights or civil liberties. The House of Representatives has its own inspector general. When Speaker Gingrich became speaker, he ordered an outside audit of the House, and outside firms conducted it.
"One engages in such conduct not because you think there's evil afoot, but just to assure everyone that things are fine. Outside auditors perform that function well. Inspector generals do that as well. I really don't see the argument that inspector generals should not at least have an auditing function over the courts.
"The proposed inspector general act does not -- it does important things, but it's not what some of its detractors would suggest. It would conduct and supervise audits and investigations, prevent fraud and detect waste, recommend changes in law and regulations governing the judicial branch -- anyone can do that, including the I.G. -- and then conduct investigations relating to the judicial branch, including possible misconduct that may require oversight or other action by Congress.
"Very little would do that, but some things, like proposed changes in the law you could see coming up periodically. These proposals are salutary. They will protect -- the inspector general will protect judges from frivolous or false charges. No organ of government should be above the law."
For more information on the hearing, including a webcast, see the Committee on the Judiciary's website at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings.aspx?ID=150.
For the complete text of H.R. 5219, see the "Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2006".