(Senate - December 06, 2017)

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[Pages S7892-S7893]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. GRASSLEY:
  S. 2195. 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, to help ensure that our Federal judicial 
system remains free of corruption, bias, and hypocrisy, today I rise to 
reintroduce the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act. This 
important bill 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. Ensuring a fair and independent judiciary is critical to our 
Constitutional system of checks and balances.
  During my many years in Congress, I've worked hard to strengthen the 
oversight role of Federal Inspectors General who serve as the first 
line of defense against fraud, waste and abuse. The facts demonstrate 
that the institution of the Inspector General has been crucial in 
detecting, exposing and deterring problems within our government. In 
collaboration with whistleblowers, Inspectors General have been 
extremely effective in their efforts to expose and help correct these 
  I've come to rely on IGs and whistleblowers to ensure that our tax 
dollars are spent according to the letter and spirit of the law. And 
when that doesn't happen, we in Congress need to know about it and take 
corrective action.
  During the past fiscal year, Congress appropriated roughly $7 billion 
in taxpayer dollars to support the Federal judiciary. Put in context, 
the Small Business Administration and the Corporation for National and 
Community Service each received less funding than the judiciary but 
both entities have an Office of Inspector General. If we in Congress 
believed that these entities could use an Inspector General, doesn't it 
make good sense that the Judiciary would deserve the same assistance?
  Beyond fiduciary factors, 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. In fact, in the past seven years, the 
Senate received articles of impeachment for not one but two Federal 
  In the first case, former Judge Samuel B. Kent, although charged with 
multiple counts of sexual assault, pled guilty to obstruction of 
justice. It took a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice 
to uncover his false statements made to his colleagues who were 
assembled to investigated him as well as substantiate the horrendous 
claims made against him.
  In the second case, you will recall that the Senate found former 
Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. guilty on multiple articles of 
impeachment, 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. 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.
  Moreover, 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 that 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 Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act 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

[[Page S7893]]

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. Further, the bill establishes important 
whistleblower protections for judicial branch employees to help keep 
the judiciary accountable.
  Judges are supposed to maintain impartiality. They're 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. The 
Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act will not only help 
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. 2195

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Judicial Transparency and 
     Ethics Enhancement Act of 2017''.


       (a) Establishment and Duties.--Part III of title 28, United 
     States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:


``1021. Establishment.
``1022. Appointment, term, and removal of Inspector General.
``1023. Duties.
``1024. Powers.
``1025. Reports.
``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 

       ``(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 
       ``(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 
       ``(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.
       ``(b) Civil Action.--An employee injured by a violation of 
     subsection (a) may, in a civil action, obtain appropriate 
       (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:

1021''.spector General for the judicial branch.......................