Justices Will Decide If Corruption Law Is Too Vague


The future of a catch-all federal law that has been used to crack down on South Florida political corruption is in the hands of the Supremes.

The Honest Services Fraud statute states that it is illegal to “deprive someone of the intangible right of honest services. It has been called vague and overly broad.

Now the nine U. S. Supreme Court justices will decide whether the law is constitutional.

The ruling could have consequences here.

Honest Services Fraud statute was used to catch corrupt Palm Beach County commissioners and is one of the charges against suspended School Board member Bev Gallagher and former Miramar Commissioner Fitzroy Salesman.

The law is so scary that in April Broward Commissioner John Rodstrom  proposed a ban on commissioners raising money for charities and other politicians’ campaigns. Rodstrom’s proposal was killed by the others.

My story on Rodstrom’s idea is here.

The court is hearing several cases involving the law.

One involves the former newspaper tycoon Conrad Black, who was charged with breaking the law by putting his own interests ahead of those of his employer, a newspaper company.

Another concerns an Alaskan state legislator, who was charged with soliciting business from a company doing business with the Legislature.   The question is whether he can be changed with Honest Services Fraud when his conduct did not violate state law. 

The defendant in the third case is Jeffrey Skillings, the former executive charged in the massive Enron collapse.

A good story on the confusion over Honest Services Fraud is by the New York Times Adam Liptak here.

One Response to “Justices Will Decide If Corruption Law Is Too Vague”

  1. Las Olas Law says:

    This law is too vague. There are plenty of other laws like bribery or extortion that can be used.