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Unpublished Paper
Honest Services and Dishonest Prosecutions
  • William D Corriher, Georgia State University

The paper discusses Skilling v. United States, the recent Supreme Court case involving 18 U.S.C. § 1346, the federal statute prohibiting 'honest services" fraud. It begins by discussing the history of this form of fraud, from its origin in case law to its statutory form to the new definition articulated in Skilling. The background section goes on to discuss recent prosecutions under the statute, both corporate corruption cases and politically motivated prosecutions of public officials. The analysis section argues that it was inappropriate for the Skilling Court to redefine honest services fraud, because such a revision of a federal crime infringes upon the prerogatives of the political branches. Thus, the analysis section then applies the Court's two-pronged test for vagueness to § 1346 and concludes that the Court should have definitely ruled the statute unconstitutionally vague. The second part of the analysis section discusses the policy implications of the Court's narrower version of honest services fraud and its approach to addressing vagueness. In other words, this part asks whether the Court made the right decision in so limiting the reach of the statute, and it will ask whether the Court should be making this type of decision in the first place. The paper concludes that Skilling did not remove all of the constitutional questions surrounding § 1346 and that the Court's approach is bad policy.

  • honest services fraud,
  • political prosecutions
Publication Date
Citation Information
William D Corriher. "Honest Services and Dishonest Prosecutions" (2010)
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