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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  

Kathleen Clark

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: April 1998

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Clark, Kathleen, Paying the Price for Heightened Ethics Scrutiny: Legal Defense Funds and Other Ways That Government Officials Pay Their Lawyers (April 1998). In the Stanford Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1, 1997.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=110533

Kathleen Clark (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
314-935-4081 (Phone)
314-935-6493 (Fax)

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