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Court limits ‘honest services’ fraud application

The “Honest services” criminal fraud statute applies only to cases involving bribery and kickbacks, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling overturns one of the counts for which Enron exec Jeffery Skilling was convicted – conspiracy. He was convicted of a total of 19 counts in 2006 for crimes related to his tenure at the company’s helm. The Court said it is for the lower courts to decide whether the error affects his other convictions.

In Skilling v. U.S., the Court also held that Skilling’s trial was not unfairly prejudiced by pretrial publicity.

That was one of seven cases handed down by the Court today, and one of three “honest services” rulings.

In Black v. U.S., another “honest services” fraud case involving former media mogul Conrad Black, the Court ruled that the jury instructions were incorrect in light of Skilling.

The court also issued a per curiam ruling in the public sector “honest services” case Weyhrauch v. U.S., vacating and remanding in light of Skilling.

In, Granite Rock Co. v. Teamsters, the last arbitration case pending this term, the Court held that a challenge to a collective bargaining agreement’s ratification date was a matter for a court, not an arbitrator, to decide.

The Court also rejected the challenge by a group of petitioners challenging Washington’s gay rights law to prevent their names from being made public in Doe v. Reed.

In Morrison v. National Australia Bank, the Court held that foreigners cannot sue over foreign exchange trading under the Securities and Exchange Act.

And in Magwood v. Patterson, the justices ruled that a defendant is not barred from raising a habeas challenge under the “second successive petition rule” where a new judgment is being challenged for the first time.

The Court also announced that the last day of opinions this term will be Monday.

More to come on these cases on this blog, and on Lawyers USA online.

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