Alexia Morrison, Independent Counsel v. Theodore B. Olsen
|Alexia Morrison, Independent Counsel v. Theodore B. Olsen
|U.S. Supreme Court
|487 U.S. 654 (1988)
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 allows for Congress to appoint an independent counsel to investigate and if necessary prosecute any high-ranking governmental official for violation of federal criminal laws. The Attorney General can dismiss the counsel for good cause. The Constitution vests all executive functions to the President, but allows Congress to appoint inferior officers.
Whether the independent counsel is an inferior officer allowed to be appointed by the Congress, or a principal officer which must be selected by the President.Whether the Ethics Act violates the separation of powers.
The position is constitutional.
Because the position is subject to removal by a higher Executive Branch official, and empowered only to perform certain, limited duties, and limited in jurisdiction, the independent counsel is an inferior officer in the constitutional sense.
The act should be invalidated on separation of powers principle. There will always be room for abuse, but the Constitution is clear when it states that powers of executive functions shall be vested solely in the President.