A Right to “Know” or a Right to “No”?

  • October 25, 2016
  • 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Examining the Congressional-Executive Branch Struggle
Over Access to Information

There is a constant tension between Congress’s constitutional responsibility to oversee the workings of the Executive Branch—and in doing so, its need to have a timely, complete understanding of motives and actions—and the President’s claims of executive privilege and deliberative process in order to protect the inner workings of the White House. The frequency and force of these claims, as well as Congress’s willingness and ability to push back, varies from Congress to Congress based on a host of elements. These include the popularity of the President, the leadership of the Congress, the issues being investigated, the degree of public interest, the presence or absence of criminal culpability, the individual personalities involved, and, of course, the state of the law.

With a new president and a new Congress set to begin in 2017, it is a meaningful time to review the rights, rules, and principles that govern this inter-branch tug of war, and to contemplate the path forward. Is reform necessary to ensure that Congress can access the information it needs to check the executive branch effectively? How should Congress best be held accountable for using its oversight powers and tools appropriately?

Please join a distinguished panel of scholars and practitioners for a lively discussion of these pressing issues. This event is cosponsored by by The Constitution Project and the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. Links to video and photos below.


Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM


The Pew Charitable Trusts
901 E Street NW
(entrance is on 9th Street just north of E Street)

Tentative Program:

8:15 – 8:45: Join us for a light continental breakfast

9:00 – 9:20: Welcome and overview

  • The Honorable Carl Levin, former U.S. Senator (D-Mich.)
  • Jocelyn Benson, Director, Levin Center at Wayne Law
  • Virginia Sloan, President, The Constitution Project

9:20 – 10:30: Panel I: Recent Developments in the Law on Congressional Access to Information (Video HERE)

  • Steve Castor, Deputy General Counsel, House Cmte. on Oversight and Government Reform
  • Ronald Weich, Dean, University of Baltimore School of Law
  • Andrew Wright, Associate Professor, Savannah Law School
  • Linda Gustitus (moderator), former Staff Director, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

10:30 – 10:45: Break

10:45 – 12:00: Panel II: Is the Current System Working or Does it Need Reform? (Video HERE)

  • Josh Chafetz, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
  • David Hayes, Distinguished Visiting Lecturer at Law, Stanford Law School
  • Kerry Kircher, former General Counsel, House of Representatives
  • Mort Rosenberg, former Specialist in American Public Law, Congressional Research Service
  • Jocelyn Benson (moderator), Director, Levin Center at Wayne Law

12:00 – 12:15:  Additional Thoughts and Wrap up

And check out a few photos HERE.

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