Bedtime Reading

Secrecy News points us to this important document:

A major new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service examines the congressional contempt power.

“Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance (inherent contempt), punish the contemnor (criminal contempt), and/or to remove the obstruction (civil contempt).”

“Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in the last seventy years the contempt power (primarily through the criminal contempt process) has generally been employed only in instances of refusals of witnesses to appear before committees, to respond to questions, or to produce documents.”

“This report examines the source of the contempt power, reviews the historical development of the early case law, outlines the statutory and common law basis for Congress’s contempt power, and analyzes the procedures associated with each of the three different types of contempt proceedings. In addition, the report discusses limitations both nonconstitutional and constitutionally based on the power.”

See “Congress’s Contempt Power: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure,” July 24, 2007.

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