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Convicting Bad People Under Bad Law Is No Virtue

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It’s a good thing that the Supreme Court limited the application of the notoriously abuse-inviting “honest services” anti-fraud provision today. Skilling and Black aren’t sympathetic claimants, and the ruling will be good news for a variety of other assholes, but that’s the same trap that leads to the erosion of civil liberties for people with fewer resources to defend themselves. In a democratic society, people should only be subject to legal sanctions for engaging in conduct specifically proscribed by statute, not because a prosecutor decides that someone is an unsavory character and decides to go after him or her under a statute so broad that almost everybody can be argued to violate it.

As I say at the other place, the other interesting thing about the decision is that it’s another reason to believe that concern about Sotomayor’s record on civil liberties was unfounded. .500 isn’t a great average for selecting Supreme Court justices, but there’s increasing reason to believe that Obama has made at least one superb choice.

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