Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scalia vs. Headline-Grabbing Prosecutors

The dishonest "honest services" crime is now under scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the last week, the Court agreed to hear three cases involving this "vague law."

The Rove Republican Racket, which has used this bogus "crime" to toss political opponents in jail , created a legal monster.

And one U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (pictured)has had enough.

On Monday, The New York Times wrote:

In February, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that federal prosecutors had developed an unseemly crush on a particularly vague law, one that had “been invoked to impose criminal penalties upon a staggeringly broad swath of behavior.” Justice Scalia was writing to protest the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear an appeal from three city officials in Chicago who had been convicted of violating the law, which makes it a crime “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

If you can make sense of that phrase, you have achieved something that has so far eluded the nation’s appeals courts. “How can the public be expected to know what the statute means when the judges and prosecutors themselves do not know, or must make it up as they go along?” Judge Dennis Jacobs of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, asked in a 2003 dissent.

The “honest services” law, Justice Scalia explained, says that “officeholders and employees owe a duty to act only in the best interests of their constituents and employers.” Carried to its logical extreme, he said, “it would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ballgame.”

The bottom line, Justice Scalia said in February, is that the courts have not been able to define what separates “the criminal breaches, conflicts and misstatements from the obnoxious but lawful ones.” The honest services law, [Scalia] said, “invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators and corporate C.E.O.’s who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct.”
Read the full article here.