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Collegiate Forum: Debate on Constitutionality of the Independent Counsel

November 6 @ 7:00 am - 8:00 pm

Collegiate Forum 11.06


The Nixon Foundation in collaboration with US Vigilance will bring together top students from California’s preeminent colleges and universities for the third Collegiate Forum which will prompt a timely competition of ideas concerning a few pressing issues which face the Millennial generation.

Proposition: Since President Nixon, most modern presidents have been subject to an independent or special counsels, investigating suspected wrongdoing in the Executive Branch. Does this counsel assure a fair and non-partisan judicial process, or does it interfere in the separation of powers?

Discussion: Special counsels have existed since the Grant administration, and have been appointed to investigate the executive branch during the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, George W. Bush and now Trump administrations. Supporters claim that these counsels assure a fair, non-partisan, and independent judicial investigation process, and uphold the principle that no one is above the law. The political control of the executive over the Justice Department—and the dominance Presidents exert over their administrations—require that investigations into executive wrongdoing have the independence and protection of special counsels.

However, opponents believe all prosecutorial power is vested within the Executive Branch, and Congress has the constitutional authority to investigate and, if necessary, impeach the President for high crimes and misdemeanors. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent in Morrison v. Olson (1988), held that special counsels violate the equilibrium of separation of powers, “which is the absolutely central guarantee to a just government.” Furthermore, a government official with as broad and unceasing investigatory powers as an independent counsel may impede the energy of the executive branch, which as Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers was “the leading character in the definition of good government” and “steady administration of the laws.”

Are independent counsels necessary to effectively investigate the Executive Branch? Or do they threatened the separation of powers of the Constitution?Welcome to – your online plain text editor. Enter or paste your text here. To download and save it, click on the button below.



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