Justice Scalia Takes on Honest Services Fraud:
Critics of the overcriminalization of federal law will cheer on Justice Scalia's terrific dissent from denial of certiorari in Sorich v. United States today. Scalia explains why the "honest services fraud" caselaw is such a mess, and urges the Court to take the issue and construe the statute more narrowly. A taste:
[T]his Court has long recognized the“basic principle that a criminal statute must give fair warning of the conduct that it makes a crime.” Bouie v. City of Columbia, 378 U. S. 347, 350 (1964). There is a serious argument that §1346 is nothing more than an invitation for federal courts to develop a common-law crime of unethical conduct. But "the notion of a common-law crime is utterly anathema today," Rogers v. Tennessee, 532 U. S. 451, 476 (2001) (SCALIA, J., dissenting), and for good reason. It is simply not fair to prosecute someone for a crime that has not been defined until the judicial decision that sends him to jail. “How can the public be expected to know what the statute means when the judges and prosecutors themselves do not know, or must make it up as they go along?” Rybicki, supra, at 160 (Jacobs, J., dissenting).Go, Nino, go. I hope this signals renewed interest in this statute -- and more generally, in the need to construe criminal statutes narrowly.
. . .
It may be true that petitioners here, like the defendants in other “honest services” cases, have acted improperly. But “[b]ad men, like good men, are entitled to be tried and sentenced in accordance with law.” Green v. United States, 365 U. S. 301, 309 (1961) (Black, J., dissenting). In light of the conflicts among the Circuits; the longstanding confusion over the scope of the statute; and the serious due process and federalism interests affected by the ex-pansion of criminal liability that this case exemplifies, I would grant the petition for certiorari and squarely confront both the meaning and the constitutionality of §1346. Indeed, it seems to me quite irresponsible to let the current chaos prevail.