Text of Chairman Grassley’s Inspector General bill for the federal judiciary

Thanks to a helpful reader, here is the bill (Senate Bill S.1418 (2015)) as it appears in the daily edition of the Congressional Record on May 21, 2015:

S. 1418

 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 2015’’.

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.

‘‘1021. Establishment.

‘‘1022. Appointment, term, and removal of Inspector General.

‘‘1023. Duties.

‘‘1024. Powers.

‘‘1025. Reports.

‘‘1026. Whistleblower protection.

‘‘§ 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’).

‘‘§ 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.

‘‘§ 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.

‘‘§ 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.

‘‘§ 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.

‘‘§ 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.

‘‘(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’’.

RGK

13 responses

  1. Well what the heck are all those chief district judges supposed do after lunch on Tuesdays if this passes?

    But by-golly what United States Senate Judiciary Chairman wouldn’t want an extra bird dog in the field with
    subpoena powers out sniffing around for any roosters holding tight, that this that or the other Judicial Council might have missed? And if nothing else it sure would be fun to watch a firebrand IG crashing a Judicial Conference Party every now and then just for the pure sport of it all.

    I wonder if the budget for this new Inspector Generals Office will spring for some cool looking badges and some top of the line fountain pens?

  2. Could be an interesting job… If I were to apply and be selected would I get a badge and a taser?

  3. Anon.,

    I would hope so!

    Maybe you could even design a special uniform for yourself. It should be subtle but elegant–like the gold-striped robe previously worn by Chief Justice Rehnquist.

    In a similar vein, I have a good (and perhaps true) story about the gold badge carried by a former Attorney General. It bore the number 1. Someday, I will tell it.

    All the best.

    RGK

  4. Everyone has figured out that putting the mice in charge of the cheese was a bad idea. Seven admonitions out of 6,000 complaints is a lousy average in any league.

    And don’t try to tell me for a minute that 99% of the complaints are frivolous. We all know better.

    Unfortunately, Grassley’s bill won’t do anything to fix the real problem: Judges who deliberately flout precedent, misrepresent precedent, fabricate facts, write intellectually indefensible opinions, or don’t even read the opinions they vote on. There is a remedy for this (suing the judge in tort), but Grassley will never raise that issue.

    One improvement in the bill as proposed would be in imposing a requirement that all complaints must be published. Judges keep the people in the dark for a reason and presumptively, it is not an honorable one. Sunshine is a marvelous disinfectant, and if there are 85 examples of the same unsatisfactory practice, a pattern requiring correction would emerge.

    Another would be for the Committee to define “directly related to the merits” in the narrowest sense possible. The Panels define it so broadly, a judge who decided cases by throwing his own feces against the wall (sometimes, I suspect that this actually has been done) would be excused from discipline. Putting some meat on the bones would at least cabin in some of the current mischief.

    And then, there is the radical concept of letting litigants enforce the Good Behavior Clause, as it was done in Britain with other public officials. The typical federal judge would rather sodomize his mother’s corpse than let that happen, but Grassley could create a court system that removes the process from the judges’ control.

    Federal judges should be embracing Grassley’s bad idea, as it means that the mice stay in charge of the cheese for another decade.

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