New York Times “Honest” Mistake?

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.

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6 Responses to New York Times “Honest” Mistake?

  1. joe says:

    Oops, you got it wrong again. The NYT got it right. The paper quoted Silvergate because he has been critical of the statute in the past. He was critical when the Globe called, and he was critical again when the NYT called. Sounds perfectly consistent to me.

  2. Steve Stein says:

    John, I think I’m in the same boat as Joe here. I don’t see what Liptak’s error is here. He quotes Silverglate as being critical of the definition of “honest services”. But he fails to note that Silverglate has been critical of it in the past? Is that a problem?

    I am perhaps confused, so you’ll have to explain it to me in small words.

    • jcarroll7 says:

      I’m just surprised that Liptak wouldn’t mention the DiMasi case when he quotes Silverglate. It’s not like there are a lot of honest services cases floating around out there. Maybe Liptak did know about it and he (or his editors) chose not to include it. I find that choice odd.

  3. Pingback: “Honest Services” to NYT Readers? « Campaign Outsider

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