Thursday, December 10, 2009

SCOTUS May Weaken Law Against Corruption

If the Supreme Court throws this law out, justice may be undone, freeing several despicable characters sooner.

abramoff An anti-corruption law that has been central to the convictions of numerous public officials and corporate executives in recent years could be at risk of being struck down or narrowed after it was met with extreme skepticism by the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

The honest services law, enacted in 1988, makes it a crime "to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services." Prosecutors frequently use it against politicians or corporate executives believed to have defrauded their constituents or employers. Jack Abramoff, former congressman William Jefferson, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, and newspaper magnate Conrad Black all have been convicted, at least in part, of honest services fraud in the last few years.

The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in two separate cases related to the law -- one involving Black, who was convicted of defrauding his company, and the other involving Bruce Weyhrauch, the Alaska GOP legislator convicted for failing to disclose that he had solicited business from an oil-services company with business before the legislature. According to the New York Times, justices from both the court's liberal and conservative wings showed outright hostility to the law, suggesting that they saw it as overly vague.

Reports the Times:

Justice Steven G. Breyer estimated that there are 150 million workers in the United States and that perhaps 140 million of them could be prosecuted under the government's interpretation of the law.

Complimenting the boss's hat "so the boss will leave the room so that the worker can continue to read The Racing Form," Justice Breyer said, could amount to a federal crime.

If the law goes down, pretty much anyone else convicted of honest services fraud could benefit. "There will be a rush to the courthouse," Stan Brand, a veteran Washington ethics lawyer, told TPMmuckraker. Even those like Abramoff and Jefferson who were convicted on multiple counts, honest-services fraud among them, could get their sentences shortened. "Where you've got multiple counts, they're not gonna get a pass, but they could get a reduction," Brand said…

Inserted from <TPM>

Frankly, the longer the GOP’s favorite financier, Jack Abramoff, serves, the better.  Due to the embarrassment he caused my party, I have to desire to see Dollar Bill get a break either.  However, if the law is truly unclear the potential for Republican ideologue activist judges to misapply it, and the Court should send it back to Congress for repair.  If some people who shouldn’t get a pass in the process, so be it.


Lisa G. said...

Breyer knows better than that - and there are plenty of laws where they could be applied universally because they are so poorly written. (See my comment from yesterday.) Send it back to Congress for a fix, but don't let these jagoffs out.

TomCat said...

Lisa, I fully agree. But the Reich holds the majority of the court.