Law: Debate Over Special Prosecutors

Have they become weapons in a contest of power?

Call it the Week of the Special Prosecutor. The guilty verdict in the case of former White House Aide Michael Deaver was the first obtained by an independent counsel since the Ethics in Government Act formalized the terms of the job a decade ago. One day before the conviction, a reluctant Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill extending the counsel provisions of the ethics measure for five years. Meanwhile, Washington was bracing itself for the possibility of a raft of criminal indictments in another probe by a special prosecutor: the Iran-contra investigation.

After the extension passed both houses of Congress...