Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Justice Department Investigates Itself

The US Justice Department has a mechanism for investigating internal problems.  The website AllGov spells out some of the details of the Office of Professional Responsibility:

The OPR is authorized to investigate allegations of professional misconduct by any of the Department of Justice’s 10,000 attorneys relating to the attorneys’ actions in investigation, litigation, or giving legal advice. The OPR receives several hundred complaints about US Attorneys per year, from judges, defense attorneys, other Department attorneys and others. About 2/3 of these complaints are determined not to warrant further investigation because the complaints are vague and unsupported by evidence or because they are outside OPR’s jurisdiction. About 2/3 of the remaining 250 or so complaints are handled as inquiries, to be resolved by review of written records, including case transcripts and the accused attorney’s written response to the complaint. The remaining third, including some 15% of inquiries that do not resolve the complaint, become full investigations. In these cases, OPR attorneys will interview judges, attorneys, witnesses and other relevant parties, as well as review case records. If the OPR finds that misconduct has occurred, recommendations for discipline of individual attorneys follow, recommendations which Department management has discretion whether to implement. The OPR has also referred cases of intentional misconduct to state bar associations.
OPR also engages in the training of US Attorneys in proper conduct, and in presentations about ethical/legal issues to legal associations, such as the National Bar Council. OPR participates in education and training internationally, in 2005 making presentations about prosecutorial ethics in Albania, the Republic of Georgia and Afghanistan.

Well, something like this is certainly needed, even if it comes with a built-in conflict of interest that precludes any really meaningful action.  The matter of import is numerical: 10,000 attorneys employed by the US Dept. of Justice.  That's 200 for every state in the union, probably just 3 or 4 for Wyoming but 900 or more for California.  It would also mean about 32,000 men, women, children for each US attorney.  Of course, this does not include support personnel and contract employees.   The Justice Department was authorized a budget for Fiscal Year 2010 of $27.7 billion and was authorized 111,993 positions.  

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