LAW 461

Congressional Investigations: Powers, Precedents, and Politics

Constitutional & Public Law

In this course, students will explore the role of Congress in conducting investigations into a wide range of issues, including oversight of the Executive Branch and investigations into private-sector wrongdoing. Students will gain an understanding of the legal authorities and structures that enable as well as circumscribe Congress’s power to obtain information through voluntary or compulsory means. Students will also examine the legal toolbox available to members of Congress and their attorneys, including subpoenas, depositions, hearings, and impeachment. Using case studies from the last 50 years – from the Watergate Committee to the January 6th Select Committee – students will be able to put this information into context and gain an understanding of how Capitol Hill investigators have sought to uncover evidence and inform the American public, as well as how the Executive Branch, the courts, the media, and increased political polarization have shaped modern Congressional investigations. Guest speakers will join the class to share firsthand perspectives on recent Congressional investigations. Students will prepare an investigative plan on a current, pressing legal or policy issue.

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