What do Rod Blagojevich, former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, former Illinois Governor George Ryan, former Alaska Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, and former newspaper magnate Conrad Black have in common? They're all former, powerful, big-wigs? Yes, but that's too obvious. They're all going to co-star in a new reality series? That sounds like a blockbuster, but no. Not yet, anyway. The answer is: they've all either been convicted of or charged with violating the "honest services" statute. Say what? Believe it or not, we the people have the right to the "honest services" of those who serve us in government–and even from corporate types. It says so right there in 18 USCA 1346. (Cheney's probably quaking in his duck blind at that revelation.) Skilling's case is headed to the US Supreme Court, with cert having been granted just last week. (That link will take you to links for the briefs, as well. Interesting stuff.) Not showing any bias at all, Justice Scalia has already weighed in, according to a New York Times article (which also has links to some of the other cases). "The 'honest services' law," says Scalia, "says that 'officeholders and employees owe a duty to act only in the best interests of their constituents and employers.' Carried to its logical extreme, he said, 'It would seemingly cover a salaried employee's phoning in sick to go to a ballgame.'" Sounds like at least some tweaking of the statute may be in order. If you want just a quick overview, look here.
Monthly Archives: October 2009
Register now for Greening Borders: Cooperation, Security, and Diplomacy
The USD School of Peace Studies will host a three-day, binational working conference (November 18-20) to address controversies and enhance cooperation related to binational water use and management, development and growth, and public health. Student registration is $50. For more information please visit the conference website or contact Ilze Dzenovska at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEST Makes Some of Its Most Popular Law Books Available Via Kindle
We knew the day was coming when the legal publishing world caught on to the popularity of e-book readers. “Making Your Case” from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia tops the list of books produced for the company’s first digital distribution effort. West is making nearly 30 West titles available for electronic download for the Amazon Kindle.
Just like West, w’ve been fascinated by the shift lawyers and law students are making toward smartphones and electronic book readers, and we are experimenting with the Kindle and Sony Reader to see how we might use them at the LRC and/or make them available for student use.
For more information, go to www.thomsonreuters.com.
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LIVING LIBRARY A GREAT SUCCESS!
On October 21st the LRC hosted the Living Library and it was a big thumbs up from all who participated.
The Legal Research Center invited students, staff, and faculty to challenge their preconceptions during the event. A Living Book is a person who has chosen to be a public representative of a certain group usually subject to prejudice or stereotyping. They are pretty brave to stand by their convictions and be willing to discuss their values with others. Living Library is a great way to advance the USD diversity initiative and demonstrate that the local community is diverse on many levels that might not be readily apparent without engagement between people. Click here to see a catalog of the "books" you could have checked out.
Who knows? Maybe they will do it again! The Vista did a nice piece on the event. Read it here.
Report: Death Penalty is a “Wasteful Government Program”
The Death Penalty Information Center has released a report which concludes that, "[S]tates are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on the death penalty, draining state budgets during the economic crisis and diverting funds from more effective anti-violence programs. A nationwide poll of police chiefs . . . released with the report, found that they ranked the death penalty last among their priorities for crime-fighting, do not believe the death penalty deters murder, and rate it as the least efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars," according to the advocacy group's October 20 press release. The report's author and Center Executive Director states, "With many states spending millions to retain the death penalty, while seldom or never carrying out an execution, the death penalty is turning into a very expensive form of life without parole." He characterizes it as another "wasteful government program that no longer make[s] sense." Read the full report here.
United Nations Day on Sat. Oct. 24th
United Nations Day celebrates the entry into force of the United Nations Charter on October 24th, 1945. The Charter designates that the United Nations "shall be devoted to making known to the peoples of the world the aims and achievements of the United nations and to gaining their support for" its work. For more information on United Nations Day and to watch a special message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon please click here.
Patriot Act’s Got Competition
The ACLU, predictably, thinks the original Patriot Act is "disastrous." It endorses S.1686, The Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act, introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and seven other senators. Say the senators, "[It] would fix long standing problems with the PATRIOT Act and Other Surveillance Laws." The Senate Judiciary Committee, however, has passed the USA PATRIOT Act Extension Act of 2009, which the ACLU says falls woefully short. Interested in how this will turn out? You can set up a tracker for free at govtrack.us, an "independent, nonpartisan website."
bing vs. Google
Can't choose default search engine? Want to compare Bing & Google results? Just put your query in the search box and press Enter. You'll see results from both engines side by side. Search provider for Internet Explorer 7/8 and Firefox is also available – search both engines from your browser!
Crimes Against People with Disabilities–New Statistical Report
Have you wondered how people with disabilities fare as victims of nonfatal violent crime? Do perpetrators see them as easy targets resulting in greater victimization? Or do the cold hearts of the perps thaw enough to leave them alone? Now you can see the numbers and make your own conclusions, but the numbers aren't encouraging. Crime Against People with Disabilities, 2007 is the first estimate of victimization experiences of persons with disabilities measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is administered by the U.S. Dept. of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. It includes comparisons to victimization experiences of persons without disabilities.
U.S. Supreme Court soon to hear Somalia human rights case
At the start of its new Term this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in Case No. 08-1555, Samantar v. Yousuf. The justices agreed to review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that allowed the lawsuit to proceed against Mohamed Ali Samantar, who served as Somalia's defense minister in the 1980s and then as prime minister from 1987 to 1990.
The lawsuit, seeking financial damages from Samantar, was filed by a small group of Somalis who said they endured torture or other abuses in violation of international law by Somali soldiers or other government officials under Samantar's general command. Some of the plaintiffs are naturalized U.S. citizens. A U.S. federal judge ruled that Samantar, who now lives in Virginia, was entitled to immunity under a U.S. law, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and dismissed the lawsuit. But the appeals court disagreed and reinstated the lawsuit. It ruled that the law extended immunity only to foreign states and their agencies, not to individuals.
Track the case here on SCOTUSblog.