Congressman Johnson Chairs Courts Subcommittee Hearing on “Civil Enforcement of Congressional Authorities”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, held a hearing on “Civil Enforcement of Congressional Authorities” to explore the methods by which Congress can compel enforcement of its authorities, including through civil judicial enforcement of subpoenas for the production of documents and testimony. The witnesses discussed the historical context of inter-branch disputes, and the lessons learned from past (and ongoing) efforts to enforce congressional investigative authorities. It provided members an opportunity to explore the challenges presented by the current options available to enforce congressional authorities such as congressional subpoenas and the merits of recent legislative proposals, including those directed at expediting the civil enforcement process.
“This is an important issue for the Committee, for the institutional interests of Congress, and for the enduring strength of our constitutional system. When Congress asks for information it expects to receive it. Congress cannot effectively or fully carry out its constitutional duties of legislating or oversight without the information it needs to do its job. An essential part of Congress’s oversight and investigative authority is the power to compel testimony and documentary information, including the power to issue and enforce subpoenas.”
“What recent history has taught us . . . is that when the process takes too long, it breaks down and impedes Congress’s constitutionally mandated work. Timing is often critical because Congress operates in two-year cycles, and a presidential administration can last for as little as four years. There’s something wrong when we can assume that a court case to enforce a congressional subpoena will last longer than the Congress that issued the subpoena or even the presidential administration defying it, no matter when the subpoena was issued.”
The bipartisan list of witnesses at the hearing were:
- Elise Bean, Washington Director of the Levin Center at Wayne Law and former staff director and chief counsel of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee
- Thomas Hungar, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and former General Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives;
- Praveen Fernandes, Vice President, Constitutional Accountability Center; and
- Todd Garvey, Legislative Attorney, Congressional Research Service.