Levin Center at Wayne Law launches website on congressional oversight case law

DETROIT - The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School today launched “Emerging Case Law on Congressional Oversight,” a website that provides free public access to detailed information and updates on current court cases examining the right of Congress to obtain information to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.

Visit the website at oversightcases.org/.

“In light of the unprecedented number of ongoing disputes between Congress and the president over the right of Congress to obtain information, the Levin Center at Wayne Law is now making it easier to follow what’s going on in the courts,” said former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, chair of the center. “As far as I know, the country has never had so many congressional oversight cases going through the courts at the same time. Three of the cases are headed to the Supreme Court, and more may follow. Our new website offers support to those in the legal community, academia, Washington, the media, and public who want to track congressional oversight cases.”

The Levin Center website currently keeps tabs on a dozen key cases from 2016 to the present on the power of Congress to obtain information for investigative purposes. Most of the cases address the right of congressional committees to enforce their subpoenas versus the right of President Trump or others to block them. 

The House and Senate subpoenas at issue include those seeking to compel the Justice Department to produce grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation, compel former White House officials to testify before Congress, and compel accounting and financial firms to produce tax and financial information related to President Trump. 

Other congressional subpoenas seek to compel the president to provide information about his business activities in light of the Constitution’s emoluments clause or compel the Treasury Department to provide copies of certain Trump-related tax returns.

One case involves a grand jury subpoena issued by a New York prosecutor seeking Trump-related information from an accounting firm. Another involves an attempt by President Trump to block a New York law authorizing the release of his state tax returns to Congress, before any request has been made for those returns by Congress.

The Levin Center website provides copies of key pleadings submitted to, and key court opinions issued by, 11 district court judges and 14 appellate court judges in the selected cases.

“So far, the courts have overwhelmingly supported the right of Congress to obtain information,” said Levin, “but President Trump and the Justice Department are appealing a number of those decisions, which means the legal battles continue. The pending court cases will shape Congress’ ability for the next generation to get information as well as the future effectiveness of the Constitution’s checks and balances.”

In each of the 12 cases being tracked, the Levin Center website provides a description of the case, its procedural posture, and copies of key pleadings and court opinions. The Levin Center also provides two types of analytical documents: key excerpts from the most important court opinions in each case, and an overall compilation of the key issues being addressed by this still developing body of case law.

To further deepen understanding of the emerging case law, on the morning of Jan. 24, the Levin Center at Wayne Law is sponsoring a panel discussion of the latest case developments. The event will take place at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., from 9 a.m. to noon. Four panelists with congressional oversight expertise will speak:

  • Jonathan Adler, Johan Verheij memorial professor of law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
  • Kirsten Matoy Carlson, associate professor, Wayne State University Law School
  • Victoria Nourse, Ralph V. Whitworth professor in law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Andrew Wright, partner, K&L Gates LLP

The panel will be moderated by Elise Bean, co-director of the Levin Center’s Washington office. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required at rsvp.wayne.edu/emerging-case-law

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Kaylee Place

Elise Bean

The Levin Center at Wayne Law is a bipartisan organization at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit founded in honor of former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin who led numerous bipartisan Senate investigations during his 36 years in office and remains active in the center’s administration. The center’s mission is to foster bipartisan, fact-based, high-quality legislative oversight as well as civil discourse on important policy issues. In pursuit of its mission, the Levin Center provides oversight training, sponsors conferences, supports research, and offers other oversight resources.

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