December 27, 2004
Government Corruption - DOJ Priority
In a recent AP story titled "Feds Take Aim at Government Corruption," reporter Lolita C. Baldor notes that "[f]ormer Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland's guilty plea Thursday to a felony charge makes him only the latest in what is a steadily growing number of federal corruption prosecutions focusing on government officials." According to this article, it is not a question of government corruption increasing, but rather a situation of DOJ placing a higher priority on this type of prosecution. Interestingly, the article also speaks to public officials wanting more training on the line between what is proper and what is unethical.
When it comes to white collar offenses, the line between legality and illegality is sometimes "blurred" as noted by Professors Kenneth Mann (Tel Aviv) and John Coffee (Columbia) in articles they have written about the line between civil and criminal improprieties. Prosecutorial discretion often controls what will remain an ethics violation and what will be subject to criminal prosecution. Irrespective of whether it is an ethics violation or criminal conduct, it is wrong and it is particularly important to educate public officials so that they do not engage in improper conduct.