Monday, December 8, 2008

A Primer on the Don Siegelman Appeal

Oral arguments will be heard tomorrow in the appeal of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has devoted 30 minutes to oral argument on Tuesday.

Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor for Harper's magazine, provides important historical perspective on the case, noting that political prosecutions can have dire consequences for the party that practices them:

In 1798, the Federalists decided to silence an outspoken Democratic Congressman, Matthew Lyon, by prosecuting and imprisoning him. But the effort backfired. Lyon was reelected from prison, and in 1800 he cast from his prison cell the decisive vote ending the rule of the Federalists and starting the first administration of the Democratic Party, under Thomas Jefferson. The Federalist’s grip on power was shattered and they soon disappeared from the political scene altogether. The Lyon prosecution was viewed by American historians as the most outrageous political prosecution in the nation’s history . . . until the Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman, that is.

David Fiderer, of Huffington Post, provides an overview of the case. And Glynn Wilson, of Locust Fork World News & Journal, examines the key legal issues that are involved. Wilson will be on hand in Atlanta to provide coverage.

The Birmingham News devotes considerable space to the appeal in today's edition, noting that a key issue will be the distinction between a legal campaign contribution and an illegal bribe.

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