Groups request more visibility from House’s Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group

August 14, 2019

The Honorable Douglas Letter
Office of General Counsel
219 Cannon House Office Building
U.S House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Letter:

We, the undersigned organizations, write concerning the connection between the Office of General Counsel and the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (“BLAG”). It is our understanding that the BLAG “speaks for and articulates the institutional position of the House of Representatives in all litigation matters”[1] while the Office of General Counsel provides “legal assistance and representation to the House”[2] pursuant to the direction of the Speaker, who consults with the BLAG. In short, the BLAG articulates the legal position of the House and your office puts it into practice.

We commend the Office of General Counsel on maintaining a public-facing website that contains information about the office, including a list of its current and prior general counsels; relevant House rules; a list of staff; notable court opinions; select amici briefs; etc.[3] At this time, there is no congressional webpage that focuses on the BLAG.

Given the interrelationship between OGC and the BLAG, we request you expand your website to include basic information the BLAG. It could include a description of what it is; who serves on the BLAG; how it functions; instances when the BLAG authorizes OGC to take a legal position; court filings; and select explanatory or historical documents (such as CRS reports) that would shed light on its operations. We also would welcome more robust information about OGC filings made at the direction of the BLAG, such as a list of court proceedings and a repository of amici briefs. This would significantly improve public understanding of both the BLAG and your office’s operations, providing appropriate transparency that is consonant with the policy direction of the House of Representatives.

The information we are requesting likely is already publicly available, but not consolidated into a central location or organized in a way that would be meaningful for the public. We are not seeking confidential communications or information protected by the attorney-client relationship. We request that you focus on information for the 116th Congress, and add information from recent Congresses when appropriate.[4]

Our request is consonant with the approach the House has undertaken to be more transparent regarding its activities. We appreciate your consideration and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further. Please contact Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress, at [email protected] or 202-577-6100.

 

With best regards,

 

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Campaign For Liberty

Center for Responsive Politics

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Common Cause

Demand Progress

Government Information Watch

Issue One

Lincoln Network

National Security Counselors

National Taxpayers Union

Open the Government

Project On Government Oversight

R Street Institute

 

 

Cc: Members of the BLAG, Members of the Committee on House Administration

 

Notes

[1] House Rule 2, clause 8(b).

[2] House Rule 2, clause 8(a).

[3] See https://ogc.house.gov/.

[4] We wrote to your predecessor, Thomas Hungar, in May 2018, with a similar request. That letter is available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/demandprogress/letters/Letter_on_BLAG_Transparency_2018-05-23.pdf.

Filed Under:
Topics: Reform Efforts