Scalia blasts U.S. corruption law

Feb. 23, 2009 at 2:37 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Chicago case, lashed out at the "chaos" of federal corruption law.

The case involved former Chicago city officials, Robert Sorich, Timothy McCarthy and sanitation official Patrick Slattery convicted in federal court of "mail fraud" under U.S. corruption law -- getting jobs for the politically connected in violation of patronage law. Each received prison sentences.

The three men asked for review, saying the federal appeals courts are divided on the meaning of the federal corruption law, which treats an attempt "to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services" as a criminal fraud, SCOTUSBLOG.com reported.

Monday, the high court rejected review but Scalia issued a dissent, saying the law is so vaguely worded it could be used to prosecute a public employee calling in sick to go to a ball game.

"It may be true that petitioners here, like the defendants in other 'honest services' cases, have acted improperly. But 'Bad men, like good men, are entitled to be tried and sentenced in accordance with law,'" Scalia said, citing a 1961 high court dissent by Justice Hugo Black.

Because of the "longstanding confusion" over the law's scope, Scalia said, he would grant review in the case "and squarely confront both the meaning and the constitutionality of" the federal corruption law. "Indeed, it seems to me quite irresponsible to let the current chaos prevail."

(Sorich et al vs. U.S., No. 08-410)

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