Friday, June 25, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Limits Honest Services Fraud Statute

In the case of Skilling v. United States, the United States Supreme Court limited the extent of the "honest services" fraud statute. That statute bars schemes designed "to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."

In its ruling, with the majority opinion being written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court narrowed the scope of the "honest services" criminal fraud statute to only properly cover bribes and kickbacks, rather than the wide range of illegal and/or questionable activities prosecutors have been using the law to punish allegedly less than honest defendants. Five concurring opinions were written and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.

A copy of the Supreme Court's Opinion in Skilling can be viewed by clicking this link: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1394.pdf.

The impact of this decision on the prosecutions and investigations in the political and judicial scandals across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania remains to be seen. Here is a link to an article by Dave Janoski of Scranton's The Times Tribune on how this decision may impact the ongoing political and judicial prosecutions and investigations in Northeastern Pennsylvania: http://thetimes-tribune.com/supreme-court-decision-raises-hurdles-for-prosecuting-corruption-cases-1.863589.

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