Department of Justice:

Information on the Office of Professional Responsibility's Operations

GGD-00-187: Published: Aug 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2000.

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Laurie E. Ekstrand
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Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of Professional Responsibility's (OPR) operations, focusing on: (1) how OPR conducts its inquiries into allegations of misconduct by Department of Justice attorneys; (2) to what extent OPR's workload, as well as budget, have changed; (3) the possible range of disciplinary actions and procedures if employee misconduct is found; (4) OPR's oversight relationship with similar offices in other Justice components; (5) the degree to which OPR has implemented GAO's prior recommendations; and (6) how OPR is monitoring and implementing the Hyde Attorneys Fees Amendment and the Citizens Protection Act.

GAO noted that: (1) with regard to how OPR conducts its inquiries of allegations of misconduct involving Justice attorneys, OPR is to initially notify the attorney of the allegations and request a written response to the charges; (2) on the basis of the response, OPR is then to determine whether further investigation is necessary; (3) if further investigation is determined to be warranted, OPR is to interview relevant individuals and analyze necessary documentation; (4) after completing its investigation, OPR is to prepare a report of its findings and, if appropriate, include a recommended range of possible disciplinary actions; (5) if the matter appears to involve a violation of a criminal law, OPR is to refer the matter to Justice's Public Integrity Section or the appropriate U.S. Attorney's office; (6) with respect to OPR's workload, the number of authorized staff has remained fairly level at 33 to 35 over the past 4 fiscal years; (7) the authorized funding levels have risen from $3.8 million in 1997 to $4.2 million in 2000; (8) administrative disciplinary actions that can be taken when professional misconduct is found can range from an oral reprimand to termination of employment, depending on the circumstances of each case; (9) it is the responsibility of the head of the office where the attorney works to impose final disciplinary action and report to OPR on what action was taken; (10) Justice OPR is also responsible for overseeing the operations of two other Justice components, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); (11) these agencies have established their own OPRs, which are tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by employees in their respective agencies; (12) Justice OPR relies on FBI and DEA monthly status reports which show the number of matters opened and the disposition of closed matters, to stay abreast of their activities; (13) in response to recommendations in GAO's 1992 report, OPR has established written investigative procedures; (14) in response to the findings contained in GAO's 1994 report, the Attorney General issued an order clarifying the jurisdiction for both OPR and Justice's Office of the Inspector General; (15) with respect to Hyde Amendment cases, nine matters have been in various stages of investigation or inquiry and one had been closed by OPR on June 11, 2000; and (16) regarding implementing the Citizens Protection Act, OPR evaluates the subjects' conduct by applying the most stringent rules of either the state bar association where the subject is licensed or the state where the case took place.

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