Political Control of Federal Prosecutions – Looking Back and Looking Forward

Daniel C. Richman, Columbia Law School


This essay – written for the annual Duke Law Journal Administrative Law Symposium – explores the mechanisms of control over federal criminal enforcement activity that the Administration and Congress used or failed to use during George W. Bush's presidency. Particular attention is given to Congress, not because it played a dominant role but because it generally chose to play such a subordinate role. My fear is that the recent focus on management inadequacies or abuses within the Justice Department might lead policymakers and observers to overlook the hard questions that remain about how the federal criminal bureaucracy should be structured and guided during a period of rapidly shifting priorities, and about the role Congress should play in this process.