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Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988) p.391


separation of powers


Presents a challenge to the independant counsel provisions of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.


Appellant then caused a grand jury to issue subpoenas on appellees, who moved in Federal District Court to quash the subpoenas, claiming that the Act's independent counsel provisions were unconstitutional and that appellant accordingly had no authority to proceed. The court upheld the Act's constitutionality, denied the motions, and later ordered that appellees be held in contempt for continuing to refuse to comply with the subpoenas. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Act violated the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Art. II, 2, cl. 2; the limitations [487 U.S. 654, 655] of Article III; and the principle of separation of powers by interfering with the President's authority under Article II.


Whether the provision of theAct restricting the Attorney General's power to remove the independant counsel to only those instances in which he can show good cause, taken by itself, impermissibly interfered with the president;s exercise of the constitutionally appointed functions. Whether the Act violates the separation of powers by reducing the President's ability to control the prosecutorial powers wielded by the independant counsel.


We hold that the provisions of the Act do not violate the Appointments Clause or the limitations of Article III, nor do they impermissible interfere with the President's authority under Article II in violation of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.


The Executive, through the AG, retains ample authority to assure the the counsel is competently performing his or her statutory responsibilities in a manner that comports with the provisions of the Act. The Act, taken as a whole, does not violate the principle of separation of powers by unduly interfering with the Executive Branch's role. This case does not involve an attempt by Congress to increase its own powers at the expense of the Executive Branch. The Act does empower certain Members of Congress to request the Attorney General to apply for the appointment of an independent counsel, but the Attorney General has no duty to comply with the request, although he must respond within a certain time limit.

Created on: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 at 15:55:41 (PDT)

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