Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, recently introduced the Special Counsel Integrity Act, bipartisan legislation that supports the integrity of independent investigations by allowing judicial review if a special counsel is removed.
In the event that a special counsel is removed, the Coons-Tillis legislation allows the special counsel to challenge the removal in court, which would be heard and determined by a panel of three federal judges within 14 days of the filing of the action. The panel of judges would determine whether or not there was good cause for the removal of the special counsel. In the event that the panel of judges finds there was no good cause for the removal, the individual would be immediately reinstated as special counsel.
Other provisions of the Special Counsel Integrity Act:
— Codifies existing Department of Justice regulations that a special counsel appointed by the department may only be removed for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or other good cause, like a violation of departmental policies. The Department of Justice must inform the special counsel in writing as to the reason for their removal.
— Ensures that a special counsel appointed by the Department of Justice may be disciplined or removed from office only by the personal action of an Attorney General who has been confirmed by the Senate, or, if the attorney general is recused from the matter, the most senior Department of Justice official who has been confirmed by the Senate and is not recused from the matter.
— Provides that the legislation is retroactively effective as of May 17 and applies to any special counsel appointed or after that date.
“Our constitutional order depends on a system of checks and balances, grounded in the fundamental premise that no one is above the law,” Coons said. “Ensuring that the special counsel cannot be removed improperly is critical to the integrity of his investigation. I am proud to partner with Sen. Tillis on this bipartisan bill to safeguard our democracy.”
“It is critical that special counsels have the independence and resources they need to lead investigations,” Tillis said. “A back-end judicial review process to prevent unmerited removals of special counsels not only helps to ensure their investigatory independence, but also reaffirms our nation’s system of check and balances.”