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September 27, 2010

Contrasting congressional hearings concerning federal criminalization

Tomorrow, September 28, 2010, brings two notable hearings in Congress for federal criminal justice fans. But the concerns driving the morning Senate hearing and the afternoon House hearing seem to be in (direct?) tension. 

In the Senate, as detailed here, the Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing entitled "Restoring Key Tools to Combat Fraud and Corruption After the Supreme Court's Skilling Decision" for at 10am.  But in the House, as detailed here, the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will having at 3pm a hearing entitled "Reining in Overcriminalization: Assessing the Problems, Proposing Solutions." 

The folks at the NACDL have put together this big press kitabout the House hearing.  The executive summary of that kit contends that "[m]any of the approximately 4,450 criminal offenses in the U.S. Code are poorly defined, lack criminal-intent requirements that are sufficient to protect the innocent, and are difficult or impossible to connect to notions of moral wrongdoing."   A great example of one such federal offense would seem to be the honest-services fraud statute that SCOTUS read narrowly in Skilling.  But apparently the Senate hearing is intended to devise a way for Congress to "restore" the (still too broad and vague?) law to its pre-Skilling state.

Though it is silly (and perhaps misguided) to expect the two houses of Congress to be on the same page concerning federal criminal law, it still seems telling that these two competing hearing are taking place on the same day.

September 27, 2010 at 02:00 PM | Permalink


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