Scalia criticizes wording of federal corruption law in Chicago case ruling

[JURIST] US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia [official profile, PDF] on Monday dissented [text, PDF] from the Court's denial of certiorari to a Chicago federal corruption case. Three former aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley [official profile] appealed their convictions on charges of mail fraud related to granting city jobs to political supporters. Appellants Robert Sorich, Timothy McCarthy, and Patrick Slattery asserted [Chicago Tribune report] that because they received no bribes or rewards for their actions, no federal offense was committed under the federal law [18 U.S.C. 1346, text] prohibiting employees from depriving citizens of "intangible services." Scalia commented on the loose wording of the federal corruption law, last updated in 1987, stating:

If the 'honest services' theory—broadly stated, that officeholders and employees owe a duty to act only in the best interests of their constituents and employers—is taken seriously and carried to its logical conclusion, presumably the statute also renders criminal a state legislator’s decision to vote for a bill because he expects it will curry favor with a small minority essential to his reelection; a mayor’s attempt to use the prestige of his office to obtain a restaurant table without a reservation; a public employee’s recommendation of his incompetent friend for a public contract; and any self-dealing by a corporate officer. Indeed, it would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game.
Scalia was the only one to dissent, and the rest of the Court did not comment on why certiorari was not granted.

Last month the Illinois State Senate removed [JURIST report] then-governor Rod Blagojevich [JURIST news archive] from office for allegedly trying to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested [JURIST report] in December on the same charges. Last year, former Illinois Governor George Ryan [JURIST news archive] began serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence [JURIST report] after being convicted of corruption and fraud in connection with a bribes-for-licenses scandal.

 

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