Paying the Price for Heightened Ethics Scrutiny: Legal Defense Funds and Other Ways that Government Officials Pay Their Lawyers
In the Stanford Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, 1997.
Posted: 30 Jul 1998
Date Written: April 1998
This articles takes a comprehensive look at a problem of growing significance for government officials: how to pay the legal fees they incur when they or their colleagues are investigated for wrongdoing. Since Watergate, an increasing number of government officials have had to hire attorneys when called before grand juries and legislative committees or subjected to internal administrative investigations. Their legal fees often outstrip their government salaries or even their net worth. This article examines three mechanisms for government reimbursement of legal fees -- Justice Department regulations, the Independent Counsel statute, and private legislation -- and identifies the shortcomings of each. It then explores the legal status of legal defense funds, which top officials have used to raise millions of dollars to pay their legal fees. The article identifies several reforms that would treat government officials much more fairly and protect against corrupting influences. In addition, the article includes several charts containing otherwise difficult to find information, such as the amounts spent by all the Independent Counsels, amounts awarded in attorneys fees under the Independent Counsel statute, and the amounts raised by members of Congress for their legal defense funds.
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