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April 20, 2007

A written opinion from the Seventh Circuit in the Georgia Thompson case

Though not as remarkable as its initial decision to order an acquittal right after oral argument, Seventh Circuit today issued its written decision in the Georgia Thompson case (basics here and here).  The opinion in US v. Thompson, No. 06-3676 (7th Cir. Apr. 20, 2007) (available here) is authored by Judge Easterbrook, and it closes with this sentiment:

Sections 666 and 1346 have an open-ended quality that makes it possible for prosecutors to believe, and public employees to deny, that a crime has occurred, and for both sides to act in good faith with support in the case law.  Courts can curtail some effects of statutory ambiguity but cannot deal with the source.  This prosecution, which led to the conviction and imprisonment of a civil servant for conduct that, as far as this record shows, was designed to pursue the public interest as the employee understood it, may well induce Congress to take another look at the wisdom of enacting ambulatory criminal prohibitions.  Haziness designed to avoid loopholes through which bad persons can wriggle can impose high costs on people the statute was not designed to catch.

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April 20, 2007 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

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