If at least four fellow Supreme Court justices agree the statute is too broad, they would find the law unconstitutional – a decision that could lead to the freedom of three imprisoned Mississippians: former lawyer Paul Minor and former Gulf Coast judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.
It also could affect a number of cases across the country. Lawyers, judges, politicians, lobbyists and executives have all gone to prison at least in part because of the law. Most of the guilty pleas in recent judicial bribery scandals involved the bribery statute or honest services statute or both.
In March 2007, a federal jury in Mississippi convicted the three on corruption charges because Minor had helped to guarantee or pay off loans of the judges, who heard some of his cases. It was a scheme, prosecutors said, to influence the judges’ decisions and deprive the state of their honest service.