Morrison v. Olson


Committees in the House of Representatives subpoenaed documents produced by the EPA relating to the enforcement of another law.  The President Reagan then ordered the EPA to withhold the document because he viewed them as detrimental to enforcement efforts.  After this, a separate investigation occurred by the Judiciary Committee which separately found that assistant attorney Olson had given false statements under testimony.  Olson was then prosecuted by an attorney appointed by the attorney general.  Independent counsel appointment exists to prosecute government officials.  Olson argued that an independent counsel was an unconstitutional position and the act which created it should be held invalid because it effectively created a 4th branch of government, accountable to no one.


Whether appointment of an independent counsel violates separation of powers.


No, reversed, law upheld.  Congress is clearly given authority in the constitution to appoint “inferior officers” in the court of law.  This provision gives Congress the authority to appoint an independent counsel.  Moreover, this allows Congress to appoint within the executive branch, especially because independent counsel has only administrative duties, nothing resembling the sort of executive authority which sways the balance of powers between branches of government.  Additionally, according to the act, the executive has the power of removal and the position does not interfere with the actual duties of the executive branch.

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