March 18, 2013 10:34:59 AM by
The states are often described, in the memorable words of Justice Louis Brandeis, as the “laboratories of democracy,” places in which new laws and practices can be tested and perfected on the local level before spreading to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, this process can occasionally go awry, as it did with Massachusetts’ recent anti-corruption law. Modeled after the vague and excessively broad federal “honest services fraud” statute, the Massachusetts law ended up criminalizing vast swaths of ordinary political activity.
The first test case pursued by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley was a prosecution of former state Treasurer Timothy Cahill. In light of the jury’s acquittal of the co-defendant and its hung verdict in Cahill’s case, my latest column, which ran in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, takes a look at the anti-corruption law and the alleged “criminal” activity that Cahill engaged in while making a third-party bid for governor in 2010.
You can find my column on the Wall Street Journal’s website, or, for those without a subscription to the Journal, you can find the full column after the jump.
December 09, 2011 4:04:47 PM by
Rod Blagojevich was sentenced on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day!) to 14 years in prison. I argue in my latest “Injustice Department” piece at Forbes.com that Blagojevich was a victim of an ever-expanding federal prosecutorial apparatus. He violated no state laws, and yet found himself under the thumb of a prosecutor citing vague federal statutes. The result was Blagojevich’s having been found culpable for behavior that was not criminal, and that he had no reason to think would be construed as such. In the run-up to his sentencing where the trial judge played his assigned part in a morality play enabling unjust federal prosecutorial power, and in a last desperate attempt to lessen his punishment, Rod Blagojevich admitted responsibility. But he admitted to having committed what I deem to be non-crimes. And if a new congressional bill—the “Clean Up Government Act”—gets enacted into law, we will see a great many more unsuspecting local politicians finding themselves in the crosshairs of an overzealous and unjust federal criminal justice system. Today it is the pols in the DOJ’s crosshairs; tomorrow it can readily be all of us (indeed, it pretty much is already).