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June 24, 2010

SCOTUS decides honest services fraud statute covers only brides and kickbacks

Through a series of three opinions authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court this morning has had a lot to say about the federal "honest services" fraud statute that has historically played a prominent role in many white-collar crime prosecutions.  Here is the early report from SCOTUSblog about the Supreme Court's work in the first of the trio of cases concerning this statute, Skilling:

We have the first opinion, Skilling v. United States, 08-1394. The Chief Justice announced that Justice Ginsburg would have three opinions; this is the first. The cases is affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

The Court rules that pre-trial publicity and community prejudice did not prevent Skilling from having a fair trial.  The second part of the opinion is that the Honest Services statute covers only bribery and kickback schemes.

There are multiple opinions in this case... The Court's main opinion, by Ginsburg, has varying support by different Justices.  There is a partial dissent filed by Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stevens and Breyer....  In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor disagrees with the Court's conclusion that Skilling had a fair trial before an impartial jury..... 

On the honest services ruling, part of the opinion vacates the Fifth Circuit's ruling on Skilling's conspiracy conviction.

The full opinion in Skilling runs 114 pages(!), and it can now be accessed at this link.  And now here is the early SCOTUSblog report of the other two opinions in this white-collar troika:

We have the second opinion, Black v. US, 08-876: Vacated and remanded.

The vote is unanimous, but there are two separate concurring opinions: Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Thomas, concurs in part and concurs in the judgment. Justice Kennedy has also filed a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

The Court rules that its opinion in Skilling on the scope of the honest services law renders the jury instructions in this case on that law incorrect....

We have the third opinion: a one paragraph per curiam opinion in 08-1196, Weyhrauch v. US. The case is vacated and remanded under Skilling.

The full opinion in Black, which runs only 13 pages, is available here.

June 24, 2010 at 10:08 AM | Permalink


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In this case, an interested reader working in restorative justice.

I think you need to check the spelling on your headline. Actually, I like it the way it is now.

Posted by: Claude Muncey | Jun 25, 2010 5:04:51 PM

Conflict of interest is a kickback. And only a fool would take a bride today, thanks to the destruction of the family by the family lawyer. Bribes are another matter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 27, 2010 9:31:21 AM

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