Supremes Rule on "Honest Services": No Such Thing as Halfway Crooks



You may recall that Conrad Black has been fighting his conviction on the basis that the "honest services" law is unconstitutionally vague. As Michael Miner explained last year, the theory arose from some clever legal maneuvering in the prosecution of Judge Otto Kerner, and was codified into law by Congress: "Congress wanted to plug a legal hole to prevent a legislator, say, who quietly steers a public works contract to a favored nephew from slipping through. He hasn't bribed or stolen or fleeced the public—but damn it, he's done something that isn't right."

Today the Supreme Court, following legal principles established by Mobb Deep, agreed with Black 9-0, narrowing the scope of the law, and sent his case back to the appeals court. The case also has implications for Jeff Skilling of Enron infamy, and our own Rod Blagojevich, but it doesn't necessarily mean that Black and his peers will walk.

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