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GGN Praises House Inherent Contempt Fines Resolution

Washington, DCApril 30, 2021 – Advocacy group Good Government Now (GGN) praised the introduction of a resolution to establish an inherent contempt fines procedure for the House of Representatives in a statement today.  

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and five other representatives including Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Val Demings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), and Joe Neguse (D-CO), would amend House rules to establish an inherent contempt enforcement process whereby the House could conduct trials of, convict, and directly sanction executive branch officials and others who defy congressional subpoenas with heavy personal fines of up to $100,000.

GGN President Dr. William J. Murphy said, “The inherent contempt fines resolution introduced by Congressman Lieu and his co-sponsors directly and effectively addresses the root cause of declining congressional enforcement authority by restoring a credible threat of significant personal punishment for those who defy congressional subpoenas.”

GGN Senior Fellow Morton Rosenberg noted, “A deliberate, multi-decade campaign by the executive branch to deny Congress the ability to impose meaningful sanctions through its inherent and criminal enforcement authority has resulted in unacceptable obstruction of congressional authority. The deterioration of congressional enforcement over the past fifteen years has achieved crisis levels and the time for repairing it is long past due.” 

Given the historical crisis of legislative authority, this proposal is worthy of bipartisan support in the House, GGN said.  In fact, both parties in both chambers should support the establishment of inherent contempt fines procedures according the group emphasized.

GGN expressed hope Congress will consider fines in excess of $100,000 if necessary as well as supplementing inherent contempt fines with independent criminal prosecutions of persistently recalcitrant witnesses by congressionally-appointed attorneys in the event the fines are insufficient to motivate their compliance with a subpoena.

Congress clearly possesses the authority to impose fines through inherent contempt as well as to appoint attorneys to prosecute criminal contempts.  These powers are supported by strong Supreme Court and appellate court precedents affirming the equivalence of the legislative and judicial contempt powers as well as the validity of judicial appointments of private counsel to prosecute criminal contempts of court, GGN concluded.

Bill Murphy is available for interviews and comments at (610) 529-6494 or
GGN personnel may be quoted as indicated in this release

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