Supreme Court's Decision on Honest Services Fraud

June 24, 2010

“Today’s decision deprives prosecutors of an important tool in their efforts to fight public corruption. Previous convictions may be vacated and corrupt officials will have an easier time escaping accountability for their misdeeds.”Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

The Supreme Court ruled today on honest services fraud cases of Skilling v. United States, Black v. United States, and Weyhrauch v. United States that narrowed the law to include only cases involving bribery and kickback schemes. The law has been used to convict lobbyists, politicians, and corporate executives in corruption cases.

From the Chicago Tribune:
The "honest services" law has been criticized by defense lawyers as the last resort of prosecutors in corruption cases that lack the evidence to prove that money is changing hands. It also has been called vague, subjecting people to prosecution for mistakes and minor transgressions in the business and political worlds. But watchdogs consider it key to fighting white-collar and public fraud.
MSNBC reported:
Honest services charges also have been used regularly in public corruption cases stemming from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, including in the pending retrial of former Abramoff associate Kevin Ring.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, "The Court has once again disregarded the will of Congress and undermined efforts to protect Americans from abuses by powerful corporate and political interests."

The essential parts of the law were upheld. Read the Anti Corruption Republican for an excellent analysis.