OPR was created in 1975, to maintain standards of ethical and legal conduct inside the Justice Department. Its creation was a response to the criticisms of political influence in the Justice Department during the Watergate Scandal. OPR had one Chief Council, Mike Shaheen, from its inception until 1997, when the current Chief Council was appointed.
The OPR is authorized to investigate allegations of professional misconduct by any of the Department of Justice’s 10,000 attorneys relating to the attorneys’ actions in investigation, litigation, or giving legal advice. The OPR receives several hundred complaints about US Attorneys per year, from judges, defense attorneys, other Department attorneys and others. About 2/3 of these complaints are determined not to warrant further investigation because the complaints are vague and unsupported by evidence or because they are outside OPR’s jurisdiction. About 2/3 of the remaining 250 or so complaints are handled as inquiries, to be resolved by review of written records, including case transcripts and the accused attorney’s written response to the complaint. The remaining third, including some 15% of inquiries that do not resolve the complaint, become full investigations. In these cases, OPR attorneys will interview judges, attorneys, witnesses and other relevant parties, as well as review case records. If the OPR finds that misconduct has occurred, recommendations for discipline of individual attorneys follow, recommendations which Department management has discretion whether to implement. The OPR has also referred cases of intentional misconduct to state bar associations.
(by Carrie Johnson, Washington Post)
Mike Shaheen was Chief Council from the creation of OPR to 1997 (22 years). He was succeeded by his Deputy as Acting Counsel for five months, and then by H. Marshall Jarrett.
In becoming only the third person to head the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) since its post-Watergate creation in 1975, Mary Patrice Brown is expected to help Attorney General Eric Holder rebuild the reputation of the Justice Department in the wake of scandals involving the trial of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and the firing of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration. Brown has distinguished herself as a strong advocate of prosecutors sharing evidence with the defense.