Blagojevich, Silver Seek Clarity from SCOTUS Post-McDonnell

December 19, 2017

Bloomberg Law
By Madison Alder

The U.S. Supreme Court has at least two opportunities this term to take up a case that could further define federal corruption law.

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have each filed petitions this term asking the justices to review laws surrounding their criminal convictions. Blagojevich is in federal prison, while Silver’s awaiting a retrial.

Their requests for clarification echo a similar a question the court answered not too long ago in McDonnell v. United States when it threw out the convictions of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell.


Ambiguous Statutes

Lathrop B. Nelson III, a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP who is an editor for his firm’s white-collar crime blog, told Bloomberg Law it’s difficult for Congress to draft legislation in the white-collar crime area because it touches on constitutional rights like the freedom of speech and expression.

“It’s important when Congress is passing laws that may affect constitutional rights, they do so carefully,” Nelson said. “It looks like this court is concerned with these issues.”

If the Supreme Court decided to take up the cases and ruled in one or either plaintiff’s favor, Nelson said, it might prompt a congressional response to revise criminal statutes. Refining the statutes would also require prosecutors to focus their cases more, he said.


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