Today, the Supreme Court rules on the Jeffrey Skilling case as reported at ScotusBlog.
The case they decided was the Jeffrey Skilling case. They basically ruled that honest services didn’t apply to Skilling in a private company sense and remananded his case for trial. However, they did not throw out honest services entirely. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to leave it somewhat in tact, specifically for bribery and kickback schemes, which as we know in Mississippi is a big deal (particularly where law enforcement regarding bribery is pretty close to nil).
While the honest-services cases preceding McNally dominantly and consistently applied the fraud statute to bribery and kickback schemes—schemes that were the basis of most honest-services prosecutions—there was considerable disarray over the statute’s application to conduct outside that core category. In light of this disarray, Skilling urges us, as he urged the Fifth Circuit, to invalidate the statute in toto. . . . It has long been our practice, however, before striking a federal statute as impermissibly vague, to consider whether the prescription is amenable to a limiting construction.
In other words, SCOTUS seems intent on fixing honest services through interpreting out the vagueness of applications.
While my guess is that Paul Minor’s paid PR machine will attempt to do a touchdown dance in the end-zone, this was not the blanket “get out of jail free” decision they’ve been dreaming of for honest services. Plus, SCOTUS has yet to accept Minor’s case. As the Scruggs PR machine begins its slow climb, this won’t likely provide any ammo as Dickie Scruggs pleaded guilty to honest services. Not much help there.
Bottom line, it looks like a long complex legal fight remains ahead for interpreting honest services, but it doesn’t look like the jail doors will swing open anytime soon. There will obviously be lots of analysis from pundits (including SCOTUSBlog for sure) about what this all means in the ongoing honest services debate. We’ll be watching.