Thursday, June 24, 2010

Supreme Court: Honest Services Requires "Bribes and Kickbacks"

The U.S. Supreme Court has found that the "honest services" statute was not appropriate for the prosecution of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling. However, the Court did not overturn the conviction of Skilling.

The Court has remanded the case to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to determine whether the use of the honest services law was harmless error since Skilling was also convicted for violation of other statutes.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing for the majority held, "There is no doubt that Congress intended (the statute) to reach at least bribes and kickbacks. Reading the statute to proscribe a wider range of offensive conduct, we acknowledge, would raise the due process concerns underlying the vagueness doctrine."

Skilling was was convicted of neither bribes or kickbacks. However, his case is not over and will not be over for some time.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the honest services law is a broad anti-fraud law that makes it a crime to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest service." The 28-word statute passed in 1988 has been used against many public officials and some corporate officers over the years and various circuit appellate courts have disagreed on what is covered though theft, embezzlement and bribery are generally agreed as coming under the law.

To read the Court's opinion:

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