Department of Justice: Office of Professional Responsibility's
Case-Handling Procedures (Letter Report, 03/31/95, GAO/OSI-95-8).

A February 1992 GAO report (GAO/GGD-92-31) recommended that the Justice
Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates
allegations of criminal or ethical misconduct involving Justice
employees, (1) establish basic standards for conducting investigations,
(2) set standards for case documentation, (3) review case files to
identify needed changes to Justice procedures and operations, and (4)
follow up more consistently on the results of misconduct investigations
conducted by other Justice components and maintain the follow-up
information in the case files.  This report discusses whether the
recommendations have been implemented and provides information on the
Office's handling of referrals.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

     TITLE:  Department of Justice: Office of Professional 
             Responsibility's Case-Handling Procedures
      DATE:  03/31/95
   SUBJECT:  Investigations by federal agencies
             Personnel management
             Ethical conduct
             Federal employees
             Crimes or offenses
             Law enforcement agencies
             Records management

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================================================================ COVER

Report to Ranking Minority Member, National Security, International
Affairs, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee, Committee on Government
Reform and Oversight, House of Representatives

March 1995



Status of Justice OPR Case-Handling


=============================================================== ABBREV

  DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration
  FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation
  GAO - General Accounting Office
  GGD - General Government Division
  OGC - Office of the General Counsel
  OIG - Office of the Inspector General
  OPR - Office of Professional Responsibility
  OSI - Office of Special Investigations

=============================================================== LETTER


March 31, 1995

The Honorable Karen Thurman
Ranking Minority Member, National Security, International
 Affairs, and Criminal Justice Subcommittee
Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
House of Representatives

Dear Mrs.  Thurman: 

This report responds to a request from Representative Bob Wise,
former Chairman of the Information, Justice, Transportation and
Agriculture Subcommittee and subsequent discussions with the office
of former Subcommittee Chairman Gary Condit, concerning the Office of
Professional Responsibility (OPR), Department of Justice.  Mr.  Wise
requested that we (1) determine if the recommendations in a February
1992 GAO report\1 on OPR had been implemented and (2) obtain
information on OPR's handling of referrals. 

Our February 1992 report recommended that OPR (1) establish basic
standards for conducting investigations, (2) establish standards for
case documentation, (3) review case files to identify possibly needed
systemic changes to Justice procedures and operations, and (4) follow
up more consistently on the results of misconduct investigations
conducted by other Justice components and maintain the follow-up
information in the case files. 

On May 12, 1992, OPR issued its new standards for investigation and
case documentation.  (See app.  I.) We agreed with the Chairman's
office to allow time for implementation and delayed our work at OPR
until April 15, 1993. 

\1 Employee Misconduct:  Justice Should Clearly Document
Investigative Actions (GAO/GGD-92-31, Feb.  7, 1992). 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :1

The Attorney General created OPR in December 1975 to ensure that
Justice employees continue to uphold high ethical standards; or
broadly speaking, OPR helps protect the integrity of Justice.  As
such, it conducts investigations and oversees inquiries into
allegations of criminal or ethical misconduct involving Justice
employees in investigative, litigative, and prosecutive positions. 
At the time of our review, the OPR staff consisted of eight
attorneys--the Counsel on Professional Responsibility, the Deputy
Counsel, and six Assistant Counsels; three support staff (a
management analyst, law clerk, and a legal technician); and two
clerical staff. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :2

OPR's procedural standards for investigating and documenting cases
(the first and second recommendations) addressed only those cases
that OPR staff actually investigated--7\2 of the 106 cases in our
review (see table 1).  In three of the seven OPR investigations, the
application of OPR's investigative and documentation standards was

OPR's new procedures addressed GAO's recommendation regarding case
file reviews to identify systemic problems in Justice procedures and
operations.  OPR reviewed 1992 and 1993 case files and forwarded the
identified problems to the Deputy Attorney General. 

According to a senior OPR official, the OPR standards did not cover
cases that OPR monitored or supervised or cases that involved other
matters, such as preliminary reviews of complaints.  These cases were
not subject to any formalized case file documentation requirements.\3

                                Table 1
                            Case Categories

Case category                      Number of cases    Percent of total
------------------------------  ------------------  ------------------
Investigations                                   7                 6.6
Supervised                                       4                 3.8
Monitored                                       59                55.7
Other                                           36                33.9
Total                                          106               100.0
Although most OPR cases were not subject to the standards, we
reviewed them in an effort to determine whether OPR consistently
followed up on misconduct investigations conducted by other Justice
components--the fourth GAO recommendation.  We found inconsistencies
in how OPR monitored and supervised investigations by other Justice
components and questioned OPR's handling of some cases in the "other"

Finally, OPR told us that, except for the Office of Inspector General
(OIG), it had no formal referral procedures (i.e., memoranda of
understanding or agreement) with any Justice component.  In addition,
most referrals of potential fraud, waste, and abuse from the GAO
Hotline concerning Justice go directly to the OIG. 

\2 Of the 106 cases we reviewed, OPR management originally
categorized 17 as OPR investigations.  However, OPR later advised us
that 10 of the cases it had originally identified as investigations
should have been listed in a different category and reduced the
number of OPR investigations to 7.  OPR considered 9 of the 10 cases
it deleted to be preliminary reviews (and captured in the "other"
category); 1 was a supervised matter.  However, based on OPR's case
category criteria, we determined that four of the nine cases OPR
considered to be preliminary inquiries were actually OPR
investigations.  In three of those cases, OPR failed to follow its
investigative and documentary guidelines. 

\3 At the time of our review, OPR cases fell within the following
four general categories:  (1) Investigations:  OPR staff
independently conducted the investigation or worked "hand-in-hand"
with component investigative staff.  (2) Supervised cases:  OPR staff
supervised an investigation conducted by another Justice component,
such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)/OPR or Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA)/OPR.  (3) Monitored cases:  OPR
staff reviewed an investigation conducted by another Justice
component.  The review/monitoring function, according to OPR
management, could occur as the case unfolded or at the conclusion of
a component's investigation.  OPR conducted the review to ensure that
complaints had been appropriately addressed.  (4) Other cases:  This
category included matters that did not fit the previous categories,
such as preliminary reviews of complaints, Office of the Inspector
General (OIG) jurisdictional matters, and administrative or
management issues.  Although the "other" category was not used in our
Feb.  1992 report, OPR staff advised us that some OPR cases did not
fit the investigative, monitored, or supervised categories.  We used
the "other" category to capture this information. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :3

We questioned OPR's application of its investigative and
documentation standards in three of the seven investigations.  For
instance, regarding the investigative standards, OPR's failure to
follow a lead to its logical conclusion resulted in the Department's
continued employment of an individual suspected of being involved in
drug activity, who also allegedly provided acquaintances with
information on pending drug investigations.  The individual allegedly
had access to critical computer databases that contained law
enforcement-sensitive information.  We located a Justice employee who
matched the subject's description and informed OPR.  According to
later file documentation, OPR determined that the employee we had
located was the individual in question.  A reference in the OPR file
noted that "unfortunately - they [GAO] got us on this one."

In addition, OPR investigative case files were not always clearly and
completely documented.  One of the seven investigative case files
lacked adequate documentation of significant conversations between
OPR representatives and the management official who initially handled
the complaint.  It also did not indicate that any effort was made to
determine the full extent of the alleged abuse.  A second file lacked
copies of court dispositions specifically related to the case's
resolution.  In another instance, neither the complainant nor the
subject was interviewed; and these omissions were not approved by OPR
management, both standard requirements.  (See app.  I.)

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :4

The third recommendation in our February 1992 report was that OPR
review its case files to identify any possible systemic changes that
might be needed in Justice's procedures and operations.  OPR's May
1992 procedures stipulate that such a review occur "at least

During the period of our analysis, an OPR Assistant Counsel reviewed
closed cases to identify possible systemic problems.  According to a
senior OPR official, problems were uncovered during this
review--which covered the period 1992 through 1993.  OPR provided
information on these findings and suggested changes to the
Department's procedures/operations in a memorandum to the Deputy
Attorney General. 

The findings concerned complaints against Department of Justice
personnel pertaining to inadequate disclosure of information to
defendants and closing arguments by prosecutors.  In the first
instance, OPR recommended that all prosecutors, especially junior
staff, be trained on disclosure policies in the various judicial
circuits.  In the second instance, OPR advised that prosecutors
assigned to a particular U.S.  Attorney's office had developed a
tendency to urge juries, during closing arguments, to "send a message
to the community" in reaching verdicts.  OPR considered this to be
inappropriate behavior and brought it to the attention of management
officials for action. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :5

Although OPR's new procedures did not address following up on
investigations conducted by other Justice components, OPR tracked
most cases it referred during our review.  We found inconsistencies
in how OPR supervised and monitored investigations by other Justice

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.1

Although most referrals are being tracked--and remain in an open
status until resolved--we found instances in which cases were closed
upon referral to the Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and
Naturalization Service, DEA, and Public Integrity Section. 

Prior to 1985, OPR tracked all case referrals in its case- tracking
system.  At that time, cases remained open until OPR was advised by
the investigative component that the matter had been resolved.  In
1985, a Deputy Attorney General reviewed OPR's caseload and decided
there were too many open cases.  This official directed that all
matters in OPR's case-tracking system be closed upon referral to a
component.  As a result of our 1992 report, all matters, including
referrals, were to be tracked by OPR. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2

Of the 106 cases in our review, OPR supervised 4 and monitored 59
that were investigated by other Justice components.  We found
inconsistencies in how OPR supervised and monitored these
matters--incomplete documentation in one supervised case, little
actual monitoring of some cases, lack of critical documentation in
monitored cases, and misclassification of cases.  Further, we
questioned how OPR closed some "other" cases. 

OPR management staff explained that case files of matters not
investigated by OPR staff may lack documentation.  According to OPR
management, since the departmental investigative component is to
maintain the main file, the OPR files were never intended to "stand
on their own." Further, OPR case files in the supervised, monitored,
and "other" categories were not created to provide complete
documentation of a component's investigation or for review by others
outside OPR. 

-------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2.1

The four supervised cases contained the following allegations: 
failure to report misconduct (e.g., waste or fraud); obstruction of
justice/cover-up; prosecutorial misconduct; and unauthorized
disclosure of grand jury material to the media.  In one of the four
cases, involving alleged prosecutorial misconduct, the file reflected
a history of the FBI's work.  However, case file documentation ended
in December 1992, containing no record of a critical OPR/complainant
interview that, we were told, occurred after that date.  In all of
the supervised cases, the allegations were unsubstantiated. 

-------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2.2

The 59 cases monitored by OPR staff involved many allegations
pertaining to investigations of misconduct performed by various
investigative components of Justice.  The most common allegations
involved prosecutorial misconduct; unprofessional or unethical
behavior; drug- related incidents; fraud; abuse of authority or
misuse of official position; threats (physical and verbal abuse and
harassment, including sexual harassment); and negligence,
dereliction, or improper performance of duties. 

OPR management explained that staff reviewed monitored cases for
investigative adequacy and returned them, if necessary, to the
investigative component with instructions for needed additional work. 
We found only one instance in which OPR had returned a case with such
instructions.  Nearly half of the monitored cases had been assigned
to a management analyst and a law clerk for the adequacy review.  OPR
occasionally marked closed cases--received from component
agencies--as "monitored" after a cursory review and merely filed
them.  For instance, we found several OPR monitored cases with
instructions from OPR management to simply "open, count and close."

We questioned OPR's handling of cases it monitored.  For example, in
one instance, a case file did not contain a copy of a complaint
against a U.S.  Attorney--or an explanation of the complaint's
dismissal by a grievance committee.  However, OPR, at this U.S. 
Attorney's request, had prepared a formal concurrence with the
committee's treatment of the case.  Such requests and the lack of
documentation supporting them were not unusual, according to a senior
OPR official.  According to this official, OPR may be vulnerable in
such an instance by not verifying information, but OPR staff often
relied on the trustworthiness and integrity of the U.S.  Attorney
staff in situations such as this. 

In addition, OPR's classification process was inconsistent.  For
instance, some cases identified by OPR as "monitored" appeared to be
"investigations" because OPR itself had performed the investigative

         "OTHER" CASES
-------------------------------------------------------- Letter :5.2.3

The 36 "other" case files included preliminary OPR reviews, OIG
jurisdiction cases, and Justice management issues.  In some
instances, Assistant Counsels judged cases not to merit a full OPR
investigation and resolved them in a "preliminary review stage." We
were told that OPR often reviewed cases for substance and closed them
if they did not merit a further expenditure of resources. 

We questioned OPR's decision to close cases without receiving results
as to their outcomes.  For example, OPR closed cases concerning
serious allegations of unprofessional or unethical behavior when it
referred them to the Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and
Naturalization Service, DEA, and the Public Integrity Section. 
Although OPR is responsible for helping to ensure that Justice
employees uphold high ethical standards, OPR did not ask for, expect,
or maintain a response from the components concerning its
investigative outcome. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :6

We were told that OPR had no formalized referral procedures with any
Justice components except the OIG and that OPR considered each matter
on a case-by-case basis before it decided whether to investigate it
or refer it to another departmental component.  Information related
to OPR referral policy is found in Attorney General Order No. 
1638-92, dated December 11, 1992.\4 Usually, OPR staff independently
investigated allegations directly affecting departmental attorney
staff and misconduct allegations of a very sensitive nature involving
high-level Justice officials. 

In most other instances, departmental components investigated the
cases.  In addition, most referrals of potential fraud, waste, and
abuse from the GAO Hotline concerning the Department of Justice are
provided directly to Justice's OIG for handling.  Because of a
long-standing jurisdictional dispute with the OIG, OPR had a formal
written agreement with that component.  However, according to a
senior OPR official--with the exception of OPR referrals involving
the OIG--OPR had no memorandums of understanding or memorandums of
agreement with other departmental OPRs or investigative components
(i.e., U.S.  Marshals Service, Immigration and Naturalization
Service, and Bureau of Prisons).  OPR management explained that it
needed no formal referral procedures with most components. 

\4 Order No.  1638-92, entitled "Jurisdiction of the Office of the
Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility with
respect to allegations of misconduct by Department of Justice
Employees," sets forth procedures for investigating allegations of
misconduct by Justice employees.  It is noted that GAO/OGC-94-24,
B-256322, dated Apr.  15, 1994, questioned the legality of some
aspects of Order No.  1638-92.  However, Department of Justice order
1931-94, dated Nov.  8, 1994, superseded 1638-92.  The new order
provides more detail concerning the jurisdiction of Justice/OPR,
FBI/OPR, DEA/OPR, and Justice/OIG regarding the investigation of
allegations of misconduct by Department of Justice employees. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :7

The Department of Justice provided written comments on a draft of
this report.  Justice generally disagreed with our report's findings,
stating that the report "is based on faulty assumptions about what
OPR does and how it does it." Justice's concerns generally involved
what it termed as our (1) artificial categorization of OPR's
caseload, (2) failure to acknowledge OPR's right of discretion in
carrying out its work, (3) inappropriate insistence on the importance
of consistency in OPR's investigative and oversight responsibilities,
and (4) inflammatory statement of facts.  Our findings are based on
interviews of OPR staff and in-depth analyses of OPR's own files.  It
is significant to note that OPR provided the case category
definitions used in this report and differentiated its caseload
according to those definitions.  Furthermore, OPR's position on
case-handling procedures is clearly documented in this report.  In
some instances, we have revised our report for clarification
purposes.  Justice's complete written comments, and our evaluation,
are presented in appendix II. 

------------------------------------------------------------ Letter :8

We reviewed closed OPR case files and interviewed OPR staff attorneys
at OPR in Washington, D.C., between April 15, 1993, and June 6, 1994. 
We reviewed all 106 OPR cases opened on or after May 12, 1992 (the
effective date of OPR's new case-handling procedures), and closed as
of April 15, 1993.  With the assistance of OPR staff, we categorized
the cases as consistently as possible with the case categories used
for our previous review.  We subsequently identified four case
categories:  investigated, supervised, monitored, and other. 

We used OPR's May 12, 1992, procedures as a guide for analyzing OPR's
case work.  These procedures, which are attached as appendix I, are
divided into three sections:  (1) OPR Standards for Conducting
Investigations, (2) OPR Standards for Case Documentation, and (3)
Periodic Case Reviews for Systemic Problems. 

---------------------------------------------------------- Letter :8.1

We will send copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees; the Attorney General; and the Inspector General and the
Counsel on Professional Responsibility, Department of Justice.  We
will also make copies available to others upon request.  If you have
questions concerning these issues, please contact me, or Assistant
Director Barbara Cart of my staff, at (202) 512-6722. 

Sincerely yours,

Richard C.  Stiener

(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix I
============================================================== Letter 

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)

(See figure in printed edition.)Appendix II
============================================================== Letter 

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 1. 

See comment 2. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 3. 

See comment 4. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 5. 

See comment 6. 

See comment 7. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 8. 

See comment 9. 

(See figure in printed edition.)

See comment 9. 

The following are GAO's comments on the Department of Justice's
letter dated December 29, 1994. 


1.  We are not questioning OPR's "reservation" of discretion
regarding its casework but rather how well OPR adhered to its new
procedural guidelines.  We found that only OPR investigations (7 out
of 106 cases) were subject to the new guidelines.  Cases that were
either supervised or monitored by OPR staff, as well as cases in the
"other" category (99 out of 106 cases), were not measured by that
standard.  However, in order to respond to the Congress, we analyzed
these cases in an effort to determine whether OPR consistently
followed up on misconduct investigations conducted by other
Department of Justice components. 

2.  GAO's February 7, 1992, report, entitled Employee Misconduct: 
Justice Should Clearly Document Investigative Actions, contained the
following statement by a Department of Justice official:  "OPR is
prepared to establish standards for case documentation." By letter
dated May 11, 1992, Representative Wise requested that GAO conduct an
inquiry at OPR to determine whether the changes recommended in our
February 1992 report had been implemented.  By memorandum dated May
12, 1992, OPR Counsel Michael Shaheen provided a copy of the new OPR
procedures to all OPR staff stating that the procedures "were written
in response to the GAO Management Review of this Office" and were
"effective immediately." In June 1992, we met with Justice officials
concerning Representative Wise's request.  Because OPR's new
procedures had been in place for a brief time, we decided to revisit
the matter at a later date to allow OPR an opportunity to implement
its new procedures.  We have deleted from the report the specific
reference to the then Chairman's request for our review. 

3.  OPR management told us that its new standards applied only to OPR
investigations.  Therefore, in order to test OPR's compliance with
its new procedures, it was necessary to differentiate between OPR
investigations and the other types of cases it handles.  In that
regard, we met with OPR officials and discussed, in detail, the type
of work they do, how they conduct their business, and how they handle
case work administratively.  Based on these conversations, it was
agreed that OPR's work fell into four case categories: 
investigations, supervised, monitored, and other. 

4.  We found that in nearly half of its investigations, OPR staff did
not comply with the new procedural guidelines. 

5.  OPR officials originally indicated to us that 17 cases were OPR
investigations.  However, they later stated that 10 of these cases
were more appropriately captured in categories other than
investigations.  Based upon OPR's definition of an OPR investigation,
our review of the 10 case files revealed that 4 were actually OPR
investigations and should remain in that category.  Further, we
determined that in three of these four cases, OPR failed to follow
its procedural guidelines. 

6.  One of the conclusions in GAO's February 1992 report stated that
OPR, by "not consistently following all investigative
leads--including routine measures often requiring no more than one or
two phone calls--risks an incorrect outcome, and, in a more serious
matter, may result in compromising the Department's integrity." In
this particular case, the Department claims a "substantial effort"
was made to locate an employee suspected of being involved in illicit
activity.  However, it was a lack of effort on OPR's part--and the
premature closing of this OPR investigation--that prompted us to
delve further.  After making one phone call, we located an individual
who matched the subject's description, and we passed this information
along to OPR.  At the time of our review, this subject was alleged to
have been involved in a number of illicit activities, to include drug
use as well as the sale of drugs at the Department of Justice.  As
Mr.  Colgate's response indicates, an investigation of this subject
is ongoing.  We have revised the language in the report concerning
OPR's efforts in this case and the subject's alleged drug activity. 

7.  OPR provided us with a definition for each of the case
categories, i.e., investigations, supervised, monitored, and other. 
Because OPR's guidelines applied only to its investigations, it was
necessary to develop a clear understanding of case types in order to
conduct a fair appraisal of its investigative work.  In addition, OPR
provided GAO with a report (called a "closed case report") from its
"case tracking system." This report contained information on the 106
cases that fell within the time period of our review.  It is
significant to note that OPR staff, not GAO personnel, identified
each of the 106 cases listed in the "closed case report" as either an
investigation, supervised, monitored, or other case. 

8.  Mr.  Colgate states that these OPR support staff are qualified,
and we do not dispute that they are.  We did not describe these
individuals as "low-level clerks" as Mr.  Colgate implied in his
comments.  However, we have clarified the report to reflect the
titles of the support staff at that time. 

9.  Although our report does not specifically concern OPR
jurisdictional issues--focusing more on OPR procedural matters-- Mr. 
Colgate states that a new Department of Justice jurisdictional
order--order number 1931-94, entitled:  "Jurisdiction For
Investigation of Allegations of Misconduct by Department of Justice
Employees"--renders our findings "moot." We question this

Justice order 1931-94, which supersedes order 1638-92, does provide
more detail concerning the jurisdiction of Justice investigative
components (i.e., DEA/OPR, Justice/OPR, Justice/OIG, and FBI/OPR). 
However, as Mr.  Colgate notes, Justice/OPR will continue to perform
an oversight role concerning the work of the other Justice
investigative components in their handling of alleged misconduct
investigations.  In addition, the new order states that DEA/OPR and
FBI/OPR shall notify Justice/OPR and Justice/OIG of the existence of
investigations of employees of their respective agencies and, in all
cases, DEA/OPR and FBI/OPR shall report the results of their
investigations to Justice/OPR and Justice/OIG.  Finally, Mr.  Colgate
states that OPR "will continue to document its files according to the
standards set forth in Mr.  Shaheen's May 12, 1992, memorandum."

Considering that (1) our report questioned OPR's oversight of cases
(i.e., supervised or monitored) it handled and (2) we found that
nearly half of OPR investigations did not follow the procedures set
forth in Mr.  Shaheen's May 12, 1992, memorandum, our report findings
are not "moot." We have added a reference to the new Justice internal
order to our report. 

========================================================= Appendix III


Barbara Cart, Assistant Director
Richard Newbold, Senior Special Agent
Harvey Gold, Senior Evaluator


James Lager, Assistant General Counsel
Glenn Wolcott, Assistant General Counsel


Pauline Nowak, Evaluator

*** End of document. ***