By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Supreme Court to take up “honest services” law

The New York Times reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the constitutionality of the “honest services” law, a vague federal statute that creates all kinds of opportunities for prosecutorial mischief.

Among other things, it is the root of one of the principal accusations against former Massachusetts House speaker Sal DiMasi, who faces federal charges stemming from favors he received from well-connected friends.

Abuse of the honest-services law is a major theme of friend of Media Nation Harvey Silverglate‘s book “Three Felonies a Day,” in which Silverglate argues that such laws are used to transform less-than-admirable conduct into federal crimes.

Or, as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia puts it in the Times article, the law “invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators and corporate CEOs who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct.”

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  1. lkcape

    The Courts, or the Legistatures, are the best place for this to play out.

    It seems as though you and Scalia have formed a firm alliance on this one. Given that you feel that the Courts have been commandeered by the right, you should feel a slam-dunk in the offing.

    Nice plug for first buddy, Harvey, Dan.

    You going to plug Scalia’s next book, too? He has a much more important track record on matters legal.

  2. Brad Deltan

    The problem here is that if you have to draft legislation to tell people to be ethical, you’re already doomed.

    The “honest services” law is a bad idea in the service of the noble intent to force some good behavior into a segment of society that seems thoroughly incapable of it.

    Seems like what we really need is a Gort

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