Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling limits the ability of federal prosecutors to pursue corruption cases

Originally published at: Unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling limits the ability of federal prosecutors to pursue corruption cases | Boing Boing


So he was “lobbying,” not corrupt.

Yeah, it goes well with “money is speech”. If you’re counting on the SCOTUS to be the institution that will save liberal democracy in America, think again.


Yeah, considering all of the supreme court justices getting caught in corruption themselves, this ruling is pure self-defence to block their own crimes from being held against them.


Not even a single dissent?





This decision is correct.

The jury in this guy’s case was given an outdated and erroneous jury instruction about what level of bad behavior constituted fraud. If you believe that juries are important, you can’t ignore the importance of jury instructions – the specific descriptions of the law against which the jury is to judge the facts.

Due process is still a thing, even for lousy people like this guy.


In Percoco’s case, the jury was required “to determine whether he had a ‘special relationship’ with the government and had ‘dominated and controlled’ government business,” conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion. “We conclude that this is not the proper test for determining whether a private person may be convicted of honest-services fraud, and we therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings.”

So does it say what is the proper test for honest-services fraud?


I think what SCOTUS is getting at here is that honest-services fraud has to be more specifically alleged – the old standard on which the trial court based its instructions was a very broad theory of it – which gets to unconstitutionally vagueness territory. SCOTUS here rejects the defendant’s notion that you can’t engage in honest-services at all if you are private citizen – you can, at some level – but still reverses the conviction b/c the jury instructions were too vague.

This isn’t my strongest suit here – but just wanted to give a little more context here. I know “Bad Jury Instructions Mean We Have To Let This Creep Get Away With It” isn’t as good of a headline, but that’s closer to the mark.


He also hasn’t necessarily gotten away with anything…yet. The conviction was overturned, but remanded to the lower court for further consideration. In other words, they can retry this case with different jury instructions, if they want to try that. I have no idea if they will or if they’ll just drop it.

This part really bothers me, though:

Defense lawyers argued that Percoco’s status as a private citizen meant that his acceptance of money to convince the government to do something indicated he was not a criminal but a lobbyist who was free to be paid for his influence.

So it’s ok for a lobbyist, who also happens to be a candidate’s campaign manager with an all but guaranteed government job in the near future, to solicit bribes, just not a current government employee? Sounds like a loophole that needs filling.


This sound suspiciously like the reasoning the BMOC basketball player in my high school used. He was dating the head cheerleader, but would regularly break up with her on a Friday EXPLICITLY to have sex with some other girl (usually from another school) and then get back together with the cheerleader on Monday. That way, he never “cheated” on her.

PS. I was SMDH back then (at both of them), and I am still S-ing MDH to think about these 30+ years later.


Smells like “we’ll rule this way because we all have taken bribes”


Where I live, we elect people who then make laws. Judges don’t get to then over-rule those laws.
We call it democracy. It seems like a reasonable way to run a country.

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Whatever happens on Mt. Olympus… stays on Mt. Olympus.

Every democracy has some sort of supreme court that can kick any law into the rubbish bin when that law contravenes that democracy’s constitution. Because that’s how democracies work, too.

Now, who gets to sit on the bench of that court and why and for how long…


To add to what @atl said, they don’t say what the correct test is. That’s fairly common for final instance courts.

Such courts tend to prefer to set out what other courts or legislators got wrong and perhaps why and send it back to those others to have another go at getting it right.

They do say that one of the Government’s proposed alternative tests is dubious. They decline to have an opinion on the other one because it wasn’t the basis on which the case was run in the lower court

That’s one of the things SCOTUS did explicitly reject as an argument.

The defendant argued he simply couldn’t be guilty of this particular kind of crime, SCOTUS said it is possible but the circumstances for when someone in his position would be guilty need to be differently and more clearly defined than they were.

It still seems a bit weak given that common law is full of “well, we all know when something is other the line even if we can’t exactly say where the line is”.

Gorsuch and Thomas would agree with you to the extent that they said that if Congress wants this conduct to be illegal, they are the ones who need to say so in properly drafted legislation rather than leaving it up to courts to work out when and how to apply a vaguely worded statute.

That’s at least accepting what they say at face value and ignoring the large subtext of “Well but of course the government shouldn’t be doing any of that…”

Opinion is here if anyone wants to read it:



You’re assuming every democracy has a written constitution, which is wrong. Westminster parliamentary systems have a principle called “parliamentary supremacy” which means parliament is supreme.

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to be fair, parliament is always supreme


That is awesome.

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Sure would be nice if we here in the US had one of those.

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