Supreme Court Limits the Honest Services Fraud Statute
On June 24, 2010, in Skilling v. United States, the Supreme Court vacated Mr. Skilling’s conviction and remanded because the indictment relied, in part, on what the Court called “an improper construction of the ‘honest services’ component of the federal ban on mail [and wire] fraud.” The Supreme Court held that the “honest services” fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1346, “properly confined,” criminalizes only schemes to defraud that involve bribes or kickbacks.
So limited, the Court found that the law passes constitutional muster, though its application must stick to “core cases” involving dishonest personal gain of some kind. Agreeing with NACDL’s position, however, Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy dissented from that portion of the honest services cases decided today, as they would have found that the statute is simply unconstitutionally vague.
Read NACDL's press release on the decision.
Read the full decision in Skilling v. U.S.
NACDL amicus briefs:
Supreme Court Grants Cert in Three Honest Services Fraud Cases
On Monday, March 1, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in its third “honest services” fraud case this term, Jeffrey K. Skilling v. United States. Last fall, on Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two high–profile “honest services” fraud cases, Conrad M. Black v. United States and Bruce Weyhrauch v. United States. In his often–quoted dissent from denial of certiorari in Sorich v. United States, Justice Scalia wrote: “If the ’honest services’ theory ... is taken seriously and carried to its logical conclusion, presumably the statute also renders criminal a state legislator’s decision to vote for a bill because he expects it will curry favor with a small minority essential to his reelection [and] a mayor’s attempt to use the prestige of his office to obtain a restaurant table without a reservation .... Indeed, it would seemingly cover a salaried employee’s phoning in sick to go to a ball game.”
NACDL is deeply concerned by the vagueness and federalism problems of 18 U.S.C. §1346, the “honest services” statute. Due process requires that a criminal law give fair warning, at the time of the offense, of what conduct is prohibited, and therefore NACDL has filed amicus briefs in all three of the above cases arguing that the law is unconstitutional. Those amicus briefs can be found here: Conrad M. Black v. United States, Weyhrauch v. United States and Skilling v. United States.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!