Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Paul Minor Appeal Attracts Heavy Legal Artillery

Theodore B. Olson, a former U.S. solicitor general and one of the top appellate attorneys in the country, will represent Mississippi lawyer Paul Minor in his upcoming appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Minor and codefendants Wes Teel and John Whitfield were convicted on various bribery and fraud counts. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the bribery convictions, but allowed the fraud-related claims to stand--and then denied an application for rehearing.

A key issue in the Minor appeal will be the constitutionality of the federal honest-services fraud statute under which he was convicted. The U.S. Supreme Court already has heard oral arguments on two honest services cases and is scheduled to hear another case this spring.

The Minor case could become the fourth such case to go before the nation's highest court.

“The open-ended and unclear language of the ‘Honest Services’ statute is inconsistent with the fundamental principle that the public must be able to understand what a criminal law means," Olson says. "Mr. Minor will ask the Supreme Court to make clear that the vague language of the ‘Honest Services’ statute cannot be used to criminalize lawful campaign contributions.”

Honest-services fraud also was a major issue in the Don Siegelman case in Alabama. In that case, however, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals did just the opposite of what happened in the Minor case--it overturned the fraud convictions, but left the bribery convictions standing.

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