New York Times legal beagle Adam Liptak had a column on Tuesday examining a federal law that makes it a crime for public officials to “deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”
As Liptak notes, what “honest services” means is anyone’s guess:
If you can make sense of that phrase, you have achieved something that has so far eluded the nation’s appeals courts.
Regardless, the U.S. Supreme Court “[has] agreed to hear not one but two cases exploring the scope of the honest services law,” Liptak writes.
In his examination of the pesky legal standard, Liptak quotes Boston uber-attorney Harvey Silverglate:
The honest services law is but one example of what Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, calls “an over-criminalization problem.”
What Liptak fails to note is Silverglate’s previous criticism of the “honest services” prosecution of former Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi.
A June 22, 2009 Boston Globe report about the effort by DiMasi’s lawyers to mount a counter-attack on the honest services law said this:
Harvey A. Silverglate, a prominent Boston civil liberties lawyer and frequent critic of federal prosecutions, called the statute a “garbage pail’’ and said the Supreme Court has signaled that it is troubled by how prosecutors apply it.
We’ll see what the Supreme Court verdict is.
Meanwhile, the verdict on Adam Liptak is in:
He didn’t do his homework.