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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » Morrison v. Olson

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

During the Reagan administration, Assistant Attorney General Theodore Olson was alleged to have testified untruthfully to a Congressional committee. After a lengthy investigation, the House of Representatives submitted a report to the Attorney General. It alleged that Olson violated the law. This report triggered a process, pursuant to the EIGA, that resulted in the appointment of an “independent counsel.”

First, based on the committee report, the Attorney General determined that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that further investigation or prosecution is warranted.” Second, when such a finding is made, the EIGA called for a special three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to “appoint an appropriate independent counsel” and “define that independent counsel’s ‘prosecutorial jurisdiction.’” In 1986, a three-judge panel appointed Alexia Morrison as the independent counsel.

Olson argued that Morrison’s appointment was unconstitutional for two reasons.

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