House Committee on Judiciary

Chair: Jerrold Nadler

A

Projected Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

19 Investigative Oversight Hearings

23 Policy/Legislative Hearings

88 Total Hearings

Last updated: Aug. 6, 2020, 1:37 p.m.

Like its Senate counterpart, the House Judiciary Committee has a profile more prominent than its relatively modest authorization budget because it deals with many hot-button issues—immigration and border security, anti-trust, gun rights, religious rights, abortion—as well as oversight of the federal judiciary and the federal criminal justice system, including the FBI and the DEA. It doesn’t hold hearings on judicial nominees like its Senate counterpart, but it recently gained prominence as the committee that drafted the two articles of impeachment against President Trump. (Most of the seven House impeachment managers came from this committee.) Similar to the Senate, the committee tends to attract fierce partisans from the left and the right who often use the committee as a platform. The committee has five subcommittees: antitrust, commercial and administrative law; constitution, civil rights and civil liberties; courts, intellectual property and the Internet; crime, terrorism and homeland security; and immigration and citizenship.

In recent years, under the leadership of Chair Bob Goodlatte (R, Va.), overall committee hearing activity decreased markedly, but there was a sizeable uptick in investigative oversight hearings. His two immediate predecessors as chair, Lamar Smith (R, Tex.) and John Conyers (D, Mich.), held an average of 122 hearings each Congress. But by Chair Goodlatte’s last term, in the 115th Congress (2017-18), the number had fallen to 70 hearings. That included a major drop in policy and legislative oversight hearings, which fell to 28 in the 115th Congress, from a high during the period of 65 under Chair Smith in the 112th Congress (2011-12).

On the other hand, Chair Goodlatte stepped up the pace considerably on investigative oversight hearings, many of a partisan nature, with the committee averaging close to 11 for each of the three Congresses he held the gavel, compared to an average of five in each of the two previous Congresses. In the 115th Congress, the first two years of the Trump presidency, many of the committee’s 13 investigative hearings were related to GOP unhappiness with the FBI probe into the Trump campaign’s possible role in Russian interference in the 2016 election. Three dealt with allegations of bias against the FBI and the Department of Justice relating to investigations of the Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign. The committee’s annual Attorney General’s oversight hearing was also contentious as Republicans berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not appointing a special counsel to investigate DOJ’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email controversy, and Democrats grilled Sessions over his statements and actions regarding Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. Two other hearings looked into allegations made by Republicans that Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social media platforms are biased against and filter out conservative viewpoints; at the same hearings, Democrats complained that social media platforms were conduits for Russian election propaganda.

In April 2017, the committee held an oversight hearing into the DEA’s role in the opioid crisis and an inspector general’s report questioning certain practices of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In September of 2017, the committee held a hearing on allegations that federal bureaucrats were thwarting President Trump and the Congress’s attempts to roll back regulations through the previously little-used Congressional Review Act. In March, 2018, in the wake of the tragic Parkland, Florida, school shooting, the committee held a hearing to explore allegations that the murders could have been prevented through better information sharing among federal and local law enforcement, and through an end to what the committee's hearing notice called a “misguided public policy” of leniency and non-enforcement towards juvenile offenders which prevented the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, from showing up on law enforcement’s radar.


Chairs

111th Congress: John Conyers (D-MI)

112th Congress: Lamar Smith (R-TX)

113th Congress: Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

114th Congress: Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

115th Congress: Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)

116th Congress: Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)


Current Congress

We are 87% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Judiciary

19 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 100% historical maximum
23 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 41% historical maximum
88 Total Hearings; 76% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 3 57 133 90% A-
112th Congress 8 65 112 100% A
113th Congress 11 41 117 93% A
114th Congress 8 41 89 76% C
115th Congress 13 28 74 74% C
116th Congress* 19 23 88 119% A
Historical average 10.3 42.5 102.2

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
House Committee on Judiciary

Date Hearing Title Committee Category