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It is generally accepted that federal prosecutors should not use their authority in individual criminal cases to promote partisan objectives. It is less clear who is best suited to investigate and resolve allegations that prosecutors, including possibly the Attorney General, have misused federal power in this manner. Various different officials and agencies have some authority to uncover corruption and political bias in the Department of Justice: At least in some situations, trial courts, federal and state disciplinary authorities, Congress, as well as several units within DOJ itself, can pursue a claim that a particular federal prosecutor was acting for impermissible partisan reasons. This essay analyzes these different actors’ roles and responsibilities and concludes that, for two reasons, the DOJ Inspector General (“IG”) is in the best position to serve this function and ought to be given broader authority to do so: first, IGs are least likely to have a political bias themselves; and, second, the IG has the requisite experience to conduct a thorough investigation and the statutory mandate to make an investigation public. Further, the IG’s power is held in check by Congress, as well as by the President, who has the power to remove the IG from office.


Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Vol. 35, no. 2, 2021