Monday, June 27, 2016

Supreme Court: With McDonnell Opinion, Ex-Governor Will Get Another Day in Court

By Professor Jessica Levinson

Today the Supreme Court unanimously tossed out the conviction of former Virginia Governor McDonnell. While Gov. McDonnell's behavior was offensive, it may not be criminal. Gov. McDonnell may still see the inside of a prison cell, but a jury will have to make that determination based on the Court's interpretation of the federal bribery laws.

The court found that "our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute."

Gov. McDonnell was convicted under a statute which required that individuals make an "official act." The Court narrowed the meaning of that law, finding that merely "[s]etting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event—without more—does not fit that definition of 'official act.'" Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court, held that a broader interpretation of the term "official act" would create constitutional problems. It would also criminalize politics as usual.

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