Federal Government Oversight: The Role of the Watchdog (SC)

Section 1ZO, Fall 20

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 4/12
Credits: 1

Course Description

Inspectors General (IGs) were created in response to the Watergate Scandal involving President Nixon to ensure that federal executive agencies were following the law. Watchdog IGs lead more than 70 federal offices conducting oversight over federal agencies/programs. They are primarily located in Washington, D.C., and staffed by many attorneys. This course will give students some of the skills and knowledge to work in federal oversight, working in, or with, an IG office. Students will examine federal government oversight through the role of IGs. Through investigations and audits, IGs combat fraud, waste, and abuse, save billions in taxpayer dollars, and improve the effectiveness of government. This course explores the interplay of IGs, federal agencies, and Congress. It covers IG independence, legal authorities, and responsibilities. Students will analyze IG reports, which may include topics such as the FBI’s actions related to the 2016 election, the EPA’s response to Flint, Michigan’s water problems, the Peace Corps’ handling of sexual assault of volunteers, post-911 TSA deficiencies at airports, the SEC missing the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, reports of wasted federal dollars, and the government’s response to the financial crisis and Covid-19. The course will cover criminal investigations by IGs working with the Department of Justice, including for example, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, and driver deaths due to a General Motors faulty ignition switch. The course will cover the process of an IG investigation and audit. This includes analysis of complaints/ other sources, subpoenaing or requesting documents, forensic and other data analysis, interviewing witnesses, determining laws violated, working with DOJ prosecutors, making recommendations to federal agencies, and protecting whistleblowers.

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Midterm Type (if any): None
Description: None

Final Type (if any): Due Date Only
Description: A take-home exam will be required at the conclusion of the course (approx. 60% of grade). Students must submit their exam answers via EXPO no later than 2 weeks after the last class session. Exam administration details will be announced.
Final Exam Notes:

A take-home exam will be required at the conclusion of the course (approx. 60% of grade). Students must submit their exam answers via EXPO no later than 2 weeks after the last class session. Exam administration details will be announced.

Written Work Product
Written Work Product: Each student will be asked to identify one IG investigation and/or audit different from those listed on the syllabus, draft a summary, and brief the class (approx. 20% of grade). The student should at a minimum, identify any laws, rules, regulations or best practices violated, the evidence, analysis by the IG, any federal agency response, and the student’s perspective about the outcome. The student should demonstrate knowledge of course material.

Other Work
There will be a sign in sheet for each class. Students will be expected to attend the entire class. Students should be prepared for class and demonstrate their preparation (approx. 20% of grade).

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: Concurrencies:
Mutually Exclusive With:
Laptops Allowed: No
First Day Attendance Required: No
Course Notes: This class will meet entirely online. Class will take place synchronously via Zoom. Any additional remote learning details from the instructor will be posted to the course's Canvas page at a later date. At the end of the semester, students should be able to: (1) Understand the role and legal authorities of a federal Inspector General, and the process by which IGs conduct investigations and audits; (2) Analyze IG reports, including any laws, rules, regulations or best practices violated, evidence collected, and the IG’s analysis; and (3) Identify the laws and conduct that have been the subject of IG criminal or civil investigations.

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: No
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*Yes means professor requires everyone in the course to submit a substantial research paper (which is the requirement standard in Academic Policies), so no paperwork required to be submitted to SRO. No means student must timely submit paperwork to SRO if intending to use a paper in this course to satisfy the Writing Requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

General Information

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Public Syllabus Link: None
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Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: