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By Jack King and Ivan J. Dominguez
Supreme Court Rejects Expansive Interpretation of 'Honest Services' Fraud Statute
In Skilling v. United States, the Supreme Court on June 24 vacated the Fifth Circuit’s decision affirming Jeffrey Skilling’s conviction and remanded because the underlying 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, “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 June 24, as they would have found that the statute is simply unconstitutionally vag
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