This course will examine the contours of Congress’ power to investigate while carrying out its legislative and oversight functions, the development of this power and how it has been exercised over the years, and will provide an overlay of modern day case studies ripped from the headlines. Topics covered will include, among others, committee jurisdiction and grants of authority; interaction with the Executive Branch and claims of Executive Privilege; impact on parallel investigations and proceedings; applicability of Constitutional and common law privileges; the Congressional contempt power; trends in Congressional Investigations and the role of the minority party; and specially constituted investigative commissions.
These high-stakes investigations often involve overlapping, and at times competing, considerations of law, legislation, lobbying, policy, politics, public relations, and media. Therefore, throughout the course of any Congressional Investigation, one must continually assess the spectrum of risk a subject or witness will face, including criminal exposure, impact on parallel litigation, administrative or regulatory issues, media scrutiny, damage to reputation and/or business going forward, and negative legislative results. The myriad purposes and goals of a Congressional Investigation, including, among others, performing oversight, advancing legislation, and/or advancing a particular political agenda, must also be considered as any investigation unfolds. It is in this unique and fascinating context that the Congressional power to investigate and perform oversight will be studied.
Throughout the course of the semester there will be a number of guest lecturers, including those who have worked for various Congressional committees, practitioners in the field, and those from the corporate world with firsthand experience in the Congressional Investigations arena.