Supreme Court Limits the Honest Services Fraud Statute
On June 24, 2010, in Skilling v. United States, the Supreme Court vacated Mr. Skilling’s conviction and remanded because the indictment relied, in part, on what the Court called “an improper construction of the ‘honest services’ component of the federal ban on mail [and wire] fraud.” The Supreme Court held that the “honest services” fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1346, “properly confined,” criminalizes only schemes to defraud that involve bribes or kickbacks.
So limited, the Court found that the law passes constitutional muster, though its application must stick to “core cases” involving dishonest personal gain of some kind. Agreeing with NACDL’s position, however, Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy dissented from that portion of the honest services cases decided today, as they would have found that the statute is simply unconstitutionally vague.
NACDL amicus briefs:
Supreme Court Grants Cert in Three Honest Services Fraud Cases
On Monday, March 1, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in its third “honest services” fraud case this term, Jeffrey K. Skilling v. United States. Last fall, on Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two high–profile “honest services” fraud cases, Conrad M. Black v. United States and Bruce Weyhrauch v. United States. In his often–quoted dissent from denial of certiorari in Sorich v. United States, Justice Scalia wrote: “If the ’honest services’ theory ... 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 [and] a mayor’s attempt to use the prestige of his office to obtain a restaurant table without a reservation .... Indeed, it would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game.”
NACDL is deeply concerned by the vagueness and federalism problems of 18 U.S.C. §1346, the “honest services” statute. Due process requires that a criminal law give fair warning, at the time of the offense, of what conduct is prohibited, and therefore NACDL has filed amicus briefs in all three of the above cases arguing that the law is unconstitutional. Those amicus briefs can be found here: Conrad M. Black v. United States, Weyhrauch v. United States and Skilling v. United States.
A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.