Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mail Fraud - Part II By Hon. Jed Rakoff

The Ninth Circuit issued an opinion in United States v. Philips, a case that includes issues related to mail fraud, money laundering, forfeiture, and alleged government misconduct.  The court reversed the district court decision to deny the government's forfeiture application, and affirmed other aspects of the case, including the money laundering conviction.  All but one, that is - the mail fraud conviction.  Here the court rejected the government's arguments and reversed the conviction. 

In a opinion written by District Judge Jed Rakoff (yes, sitting on the Ninth Circuit by designation) we are finally getting to see what we hope he will include in a Part II to his famed mail fraud article published in 18 Duq. L. Rev. 771 (1979-80) titled Federal Mail Fraud (Part 1).  

Hon.Rakoff does not cite to himself in this opinion, but his incredible knowledge of this statute definitely shows.He dissects the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Maze and concludes that "[h]ere as in Maze, the success of Phillip's fraudulent scheme did not depend in any way on the use of the mails."

Too many take for granted the enormous power of the government in its use of the "stop-gap" provision. But it is also important to remember that there are limits - constitutional ones - with this statute. Thank you, Judge Rakoff for reminding us of this. And thank you Washington Appellate Project atty Lila Silverstein for making this argument.

(esp)(with a hat tip to Evan Jenness)

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