Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bridgegate Convictions Reversed - Unanimous - Of Course!

Of course the Bridgegate (Kelly v. United States) case was reversed by the Supreme Court here. And of course, it was unanimous. (Just like McDonnell)

Justice Kagan authored the 12 1/2 page decision. Yes, the court did note that the lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were realigned and that "they did so for a political reason - to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for refusing to support the New Jersey Governor's reelection bid." But the Court holds, "not every corrupt act by state or local officials is a federal crime."  Here are some key points:

  • This decision reminds us that no matter how many times the government tries to get around the "money or property" element of the statute - it will not work. 
  • The Court makes it clear that regulatory activity is not property - repeating its holding from Cleveland.
  • "Employee's labor was just the incidental cost of that regulation, rather than itself an object of the officials' scheme."  The Court later says, "[b]ut that property must play more than some bit part in a scheme: It must be an 'object of the fraud.'"  "Or put differently, a property fraud conviction cannot stand when the loss to the victim is only an incidental byproduct of the scheme."
  • The Court reminds readers of the Skilling opinion  - "We specifically rejected a proposal to construe the statute as encompassing 'undisclosed self-dealing by a public official' even when he hid financial fraud interests."

Many will not like this opinion, but it really is good to see for several reasons. For one it shows a united Court interpreting a statute consistently.  Two it shows that when the government goes to stretch the statute it will not be tolerated.  Three it puts back on the states the police power to stop activities within their powers. And most importantly, although the Court does not state this, the decision sends a message to the public of the importance of the ballot box - if you don't like political activities, voting is your place to express it.

(esp)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2020/05/bridgegate-convictions-reversed-unanimous-of-course.html

Fraud, Judicial Opinions, Prosecutions | Permalink

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