Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Federalization of Crime

Blog co-editor Ellen Podgor has an editorial on Law.Com (here) questioning the use of laws such as the mail fraud statute (18 U.S.C. Sec. 1341) by federal prosecutors to reach a wide variety of conduct that may be of little real interest to the national government.  The issue came to the forefront recently in a corruption prosecution in Chicago in which prosecutors failed to establish the mailing element for the offense, a seemingly innocuous aspect of a crime (see earlier post here) that resulted in the dismissal of a charge.  Ellen raises the following questions:

Why has federal criminal jurisdiction become so commonly accepted that we can sometimes overlook the need for this federal jurisdiction hook? Why is it that a mailing is all that is necessary to bring many state criminal matters into the federal system? Could it be that overfederalization has made us oblivious to the importance of the unique role that the federal government should play in the criminal law system?


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I think the "federalization" of ethics statutues, which are generally a state misdemeanor, is a perfect example of the mail fraud statute going to far. If anyone is interested in this issue, I would recommend that you read the decisions written by Judge Harrington, a U.S. District Court Judge in Massachusetts, in the U.S. v. Saywer lines of cases. I would be happy to discuss this further, if anyone is interested...

Posted by: Walsh | Jun 29, 2006 8:00:08 AM

. . . of little real interest to the national government.

seems to me that most Americans correctly entrust the fundamental economic propositions of the day to the National government and nothing is more important to prosperity and growth than freedom from fraud and corrpution

Posted by: John Davidson | Jun 30, 2006 8:18:07 PM

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