Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Invitation That's Not Really an Invitation

in·vi·ta·tion (nv-tshn):

  1. The act of inviting.
  2. A spoken or written request for someone's presence or participation.

I've always taken the word "invitation" to mean something that a person can turn down, but apparently that's not the case when it comes from a Congressional Committee.  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked three former New York Yankees, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch, along with two admitted steroids suppliers, Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski, to testify about steroid use, but Knoblauch didn't respond to the "invitation."  Aside from a brief appearance before reporters outside his Houston home to assert his ignorance about the issue, Knoblauch has not been heard from.  He will have to respond now, however, because the Committee announced (here) that it would issue a subpoena to him: "The Committee has taken this step because Mr. Knoblauch failed to respond to the invitation to participate voluntarily in a deposition or transcribed interview and the February 13 hearing."  How Knoblauch responds to the more compelling subpoena remains to be seen, but at least it's clear that an "invitation" is not something one is free to ignore when the envelope comes from Congress. (ph)

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I see no problem in guessing that there are (and should be) two distinct stages 1) invitation and 2) compelling via subpoena. The offer of an invitation allows the invitee to later say, "I testified freely when invited. I did not have to show up." If the invitation is declined (or there is no timely response), a committee can then weigh the import of the invitee and, if it so desires, compell (a power clearly upheld by the Supreme Court). I guess the question is: what percentage of the time are invitations followed by subpoenas? Do committees always follow unaddressed invitations with subpoenas? These strike me as empirical (and highly relevant) questions.

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jan 25, 2008 2:17:45 PM

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