Thursday, June 24, 2010

Honest Services Law Limited by US Supreme Court

A lot of the infamous corporate greed heads: Jeffrey Skilling (pic), Conrad Black and many others--of the 1980s and 1990s, were prosecuted under what is uniformly called in the press as the "Honest Services" law.  This federal statute is a flawed bit of draftsmanship that the US Supreme Court has now limited to specific criminal activities like bribery and kickbacks.  Jeffrey Skilling's conviction under this law has now been vacated although Skilling remains convicted of other federal criminal acts and the case was remanded for further consideration and sentencing. 

Readers of Bad Lawyer know that I am no fan of these greedy, materialistic bastards--these so-called smartest guys in the room. These guys gamed the US financial system and ruined the financial lives of so many ordinary Americans who had pensions and investments lost in the chaos of the collapse of these house of cards. But I do not understand, as a matter of justice, how a person can be aggressively prosecuted with every particle of probative dirt piled on a guy, under the guise of proving a violation of what turns out to be a vague and invalid law, charge, indictment.  How is the taint of that prosecution not prejudicial as it relates to all the other charges.  If I say, Joe Flabeetz is a dirty rotten thieving bastard and he violated such-and-such vague prohibition against dirty rotten thieving bastards, how are the legitimate charges that Flabeetz took money from the petty cash drawer not prejudicially affected by the vague and invalid prohibition.  When we do this as a justice system aren't we in effect saying:  "never mind?"  Sounds like a violation of fundamental notions of fairness to me.


  1. This decision will have a broad effect on political and other white collar prosecutions. Seems to me that the former Governor of Alabama might be feeling real good about now, and the NY Assembly leader Joseph Bruno? What do you think?

  2. SO B.L. after your position to behead all the capitalistic pigs what is your view on the decision

    the pope

  3. My view is that if a criminal statute is so vague as to fail to adequately put a potential criminal subject on notice of what acts violate the law, no one should be incarcerated for violation of that clearly unconstitutional enactment.

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