Independent Counsel Law

independent counsel

independent counsel, in U.S. law, a judicially appointed investigator of charges of misdeeds by high government officials. Originally termed "special prosecutor," the position was first created by the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. Prompted by the Watergate affair, the purpose of the law was to avoid the conflict of interest that might develop if the executive branch (i.e., the Justice Dept.) investigated its own officials. The act expired in 1992, but a new independent counsel law was passed in 1994. The new law also permitted the investigation of members of Congress. The request for an appointment of an independent counsel was made by the attorney general; the counsel was appointed by an independent judicial board. An independent counsel was used to investigate the Iran-contra affair, Whitewater, and the Lewinsky scandal. In 1999, following prosecutor Kenneth Starr's confrontations with President Bill Clinton and the impeachment of the president, the law again expired and was not renewed. The attorney general now has sole responsibility for appointing outside prosecutors.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Independent Counsel Law: Selected full-text books and articles

Historical Encyclopedia of U.S. Independent Counsel Investigations
Gerald S. Greenberg.
Greenwood Press, 2000
The Law: The President and the Independent Counsel: Reflections on Prosecutors, Presidential Prerogatives, and Political Power
Harriger, Katy J.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 2, June 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Attorney General's Lawyer: Inside the Meese Justice Department
Douglas W. Kmiec.
Praeger Publishers, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Surmounting the Independent Counsel" and Chap. 8 "Freedom: Iran-Contra and the Criminalization of the Separation of Powers"
The Independent Counsel Statute: Bad Law, Bad Policy
O'Sullivan, Julie.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 3, Spring 1996
Unchecked and Unbalanced: Why the Independent Counsel Act Must Go
Sunstein, Cass R.
The American Prospect, No. 38, May-June 1998
From Watergate to Whitewater: The Public Integrity War
Robert N. Roberts; Marion T. Doss Jr.
Praeger Publishers, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "The Public Integrity Shock Troops"
Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr, and the Emerging Constitutional Crisis
Alan M. Dershowitz.
Basic Books, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. II "Guarding the Guardians: Do We Need an Independent Counsel?"
The Politics of Shared Power: Congress and the Executive
Louis Fisher.
Texas A&M University Press, 1998 (4th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of independent counsel begins on p. 136
Impeachment and the Independent Counsel: A Dysfunctional Union
Gormley, Kenneth.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 2, January 1999
Navigating Law and Politics: The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and the Independent Counsel
Danner, Allison Marston.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 55, No. 5, May 2003
Separation of Powers and the Criminal Law
Barkow, Rachel E.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 4, February 2006
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