Monday, June 4, 2012

What Is the Fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's Refusal To Hear the Siegelman Appeal?

Don Siegelman

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) today ruled that citizens can be convicted of "crimes" that do not exist, based on jury instructions that do not mirror actual law. The Supreme Court also overturned the case that had served as precedent for more than 20 years in cases that allege bribery in the context of a campaign contribution. For good measure, the high court also provided overwhelming evidence that Barack Obama does not deserve a second term as president.

And, by the way, criminal cases no longer have to be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt."

SCOTUS did not make any of those decisions in the form of actual rulings. But those are essentially the take-home lessons from the court's decision this morning not to hear an appeal in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

Perhaps the most important lesson is this: The nation's highest court proved beyond any doubt--and there really was no doubt in light of the 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling--that it is corrupt and our entire "justice system" needs a thorough cleansing from top to bottom.

How is this for irony? The Supreme Court almost certainly refused to hear the Siegelman appeal not because his case was weak, but because it was so strong. If the court had heard the case, it would have had to overturn the Siegelman/Scrushy convictions. It's about as close to an open-and-shut case as is ever likely to land before the Supremes.

But we suspect the high court could not countenance such an outcome. It would have shown that our justice system is riddled with politics, that judges at all levels routinely make rulings that are contrary to law, that our courts simply cannot be trusted--and, most importantly, that the Bush family and their surrogates (Karl Rove) have rigged our "justice system" into what amounts to a criminal enterprise.

We wrote months ago that one problem with overturning the Siegelman convictions is that it might open up a path for Siegelman and Scrushy to file civil cases against individuals and entities responsible for their prosecutions--and genuine discovery in such lawsuits almost certainly would lead to the doorsteps of powerful, wealthy, and loyal Bushies. That, in a postmodern America that has badly lost its way, could not be allowed to happen.

Today's ruling is further evidence that our "legal-industrial complex" wants no part of lawsuits that might grow from the gross abuses in the Siegelman case. By punting on an appeal, the Supremes found that it is more important to protect corrupt elites than to administer justice.

Documents filed in the Siegelman case, seeking certiorari review with the high court, make all of this painfully obvious. For the millions of words that have been written on the Siegelman case--quite a few of them on this blog--it all boils down to a few simple questions at this point. They are clearly stated in a docket entry, as reported last week by Matthew Bush at

Siegelman v. United States 
Docket: 11-955 
Issue(s): Whether the McCormick v. United States standard -- under which a connection between a campaign contribution and an official action is a crime “only if the payments are made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking by the official to perform or not to perform an official act” -- requires proof of an “explicit” quid pro quo in the sense of actually being communicated expressly, or whether there can be a conviction based instead only on the inference that there was an unstated and implied agreement connecting a campaign contribution and an official action; (2) whether 18 U.S.C. § 666 and “honest services” law (under 18 U.S.C. § 1346) cover campaign or referendum contributions as alleged bribes at all; and (3) whether the “intent” clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3) requires proof of the specific intent to interfere with communications to law enforcement, or whether it is satisfied by proof of an intent to engage in a “coverup” more generically.

Issue No. 1 is at the crux of both the Siegelman and Scrushy appeals. And the following facts are undisputed on that issue:

 * McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991) is controlling law on bribery in the context of a campaign contribution;

 * McCormick does, in fact, require an "explicit" quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement in order to constitute the crime of bribery on a campaign contribution;

* Jury instructions from U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller did not include the "explicit promise" language required by McCormick;

* Fuller allowed the jury to "infer" that a crime took place, and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit upheld this outcome, which clearly is contrary to McCormick.

The bottom line? By refusing to hear the Siegelman appeal, the nation's highest court essentially is saying: (1) It's fine for a trial judge to give incorrect jury instructions; (2) It's fine for a jury to more or less guess at whether a crime occurred or not; (3) And McCormick no longer is good law.

For that matter, the notion that a crime must be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt" also appears to no longer be good law. The "inference of a crime" now is sufficient.

As for President Obama and what today's news means for him, we will address that in an upcoming post. But this much can be said with certainty: The Siegelman fiasco started off as a production of the George W. Bush Department of Justice, but it fully rests with the Obama administration now. His DOJ argued against certiorari review, and it got its wish--and that means the president supports everything that has transpired in a case that deserves its billing as the most blatant political prosecution in American history.

The Democratic Party, which has consistently took brave stands for civil rights over the past 45-plus years, now is led by a president who has shown utter disregard for the concepts of due process and equal protection under the law. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly means nothing to Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and their minions in the DOJ.

Obama articulated a stance of cowardice on justice issues before he even took office, and now we see the natural outcome of that philosophy--a grotesque injustice lies at the feet of a Democratic president.

I'm not sure what that says to you. But it tells me that Barack Obama is not fit to be president.


Anonymous said...

Yep SCOTUS minus the R Scrotus.. They do not have the balls!!!x

Anonymous said...

SCOTUS definately does not have any SCROTUM's

Anonymous said...

You mentioned this proves Obama does not deserve a second term. Do you think Mitt will be any better? There is no way an Independent will EVER be elected in our lifetime. So who do we vote for? Stay home? We sure dont need Mitt.. So what do we do?x

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 1:58--

That's up to individual voters. I'm certainly not in the business of trying to tell citizens how to vote. As for me, I believe Obama is not fit to serve, and he will not receive my vote. Neither will Romney. I'm not required to vote, so I'm not going to. A candidate has to earn my vote. Obama has earned my decision to stay home.

choggs said...

Wonder if 60 minutes will do a follow up story. I doubt it after what happened to Dan Rather and all.

Steve said...

I am surprised at your complacence Roger. There is no doubt that Obama is a disappointment but with a second term without having to pander to the vested interests of the GOP he may well surprise you. The gun to his head will be disarmed. On the other hand sitting on your hands will only guarantee that with Romney the corruption of the process brought about by the one percent will finally destroy any vestige of democracy that is just hanging on by its finger tips. Fascism will run riot. You of all people should be aware of that simple fact! If Romney becomes POTUS
Your enemies will know they can finally act with impunity!
You may think that in your county your vote is worthless but that is what the crooks want you to believe!

Robby Scott Hill said...

Obama most likely was afraid that dismissing a case against a fellow Democrat could alienate red state voters & hurt his chances of re-election. That's why he allowed Attorney General Holder to drop the case against Ted Stevens (a Republican), but not Don Siegelman, a fellow Democrat. The White House desperately needs "Obama Republicans," but His O-ness has underestimated the number of Democrats & Liberal Independents who will stay home on Election Day.

I really appreciate Al Gore's decision to back Governor Siegelman, but it was Gore's inability to win his home state of Tennessee 12 years ago that started all of this shit. Then, Gore, like so many Democrats before him, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when in his official capacity as President of the US Senate, he certified the Electoral Vote that was stolen from him by George W. Bush, like some ghostly specter had a gun to his head.

Had Bill Clinton only chosen the Reverend Jesse Jackson as his running mate, all that would have gone down differently. The Reverend Jackson would have started an occupation of Capitol Hill which is what we all need to do & the USA would have gotten its first Black President eight years earlier.

legalschnauzer said...


I hear you, and thanks for a well-stated comment. I would only disagree with your use of the term complacence. I might be a lot of things, but complacent is not one of them. It's just a principle with me that you have to earn my vote, and Obama hasn't done it on the justice front--which is of paramount importance to me. A lot of people disagree with me and feel it's important to vote, even if it's for the lesser of two evils. I certainly respect those who make that decision. And I hope you are right about Obama perhaps behaving differently in a second term. With the recent bad news on economic front, though, I'm not convinced he will get a second term. If he had acted boldly on the justice front to begin with, I think he would have a second term wrapped up, and the GOP would be in shambles, with much of its corruption unmasked and key figures in prison. It would be grim irony if Obama gave Rove a free pass, and then Rove comes back to help beat him in Nov.

jeffrey spruill said...

I now understand why Jack Abramoff(sacrificed) went to prison while the other criminals surounding him(Ralph Reed-Karl Rove-Dick Cheney etc.) skated.

legalschnauzer said...


Thanks for a good history lesson. Clinton went soft on GOP corruption in the 80s, and Obama has repeated that mistake by going soft on GOP corruption in the 2000s. When will Democrats ever learn?

Dave said...

The DoJ brif to the SCROTUS concerning Sieleman was Holders decision to act on the threats by Rove to expose some of Holder's actions while working for Janet Reno. When Rove was in the White House he had his staff develop files on anyone that may ber in the Obama administration that could go have him or Bush or Cheney. Rove clearly has a hand on Holder's SCROTUM!!!!

Redeye said...

The buck stops with President Obama. I can't say I am surprised by the decision of the SC not to hear Siegelmans appeal. This is the kind of"justice" usually reserved for black Americans.

I hear and share your frustration LS, we are stuck between Barack and a hard place. Where to go,and what to do?

jeffrey spruill said...

Wasn't Goldman Sachs one of Obama's main campaign contributors for 2007-8?

hmmmmm!!! Another bankster walks.

James Greek said...

I have a theory a to why he showed weakness,I think Artr Davis was one of his secret advisors.

mrg/vet said...

I agree whole heartedly that obama the great capitulator walks backward and bent over and does not deserve another term,however freakin' numbnuts romney doesn't deserve a first term either.obama takes it in the ass for all corporate and big money interest completely ignoring the voice of the american people unless of course his puppet master tell him to.and yes of course i agree with "norman goldman" the judicial system is nothing more than rightwing idealogs politicians in robes and act as gaurdians over the corrupt oilgarchy that is the disease destroying our country.obama is a disgrace to "and justice for us all".

Arthur said...

I agree with your interpretation of this SCOTUS, and share your disgust and anger at the Obama administration's stand on civil rights issues--among others. But your decision not to vote makes me just as angry. You must know that the next president is likely to have the opportunity to nominate a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You want to help make a corrupt court even more corrupt by Romney's choice of another rightwinger? Or allow Obama to appoint at least a moderate, if not a true liberal, which would at least give us some hope. Sitting out a vote of this importance is a cowardly act, not a principled one. Too much is at stake. Romney's counting on disgruntled lefties staying home. Your non-vote is a vote for Romney. As you have no respect for Obama's justice stances, I don't see why I should respect this naive and counterproductive decision on your part. Hold your nose if you must, but a Romney victory, as you surely know, will be the nail in the coffin of what's left of our fragile and endangered democracy. Boy, am I upset at your position.

legalschnauzer said...


I hear you. My own wife doesn't agree with me, so I understand your position pretty well. FWIW, my mind could change between now and Nov. But if the election were today, I would be so pissed off at Obama that I could not bring myself to vote. Hope you don't get too upset with me because, as a Democrat in Alabama, my vote doesn't count for much anyway.

Robby Scott Hill said...

This case is far from over. Now it returns to where it all started, the Federal District Court in Montgomery, Alabama. Justice Fuller has yet to rule on Siegelman's Motion for a New Trial. If granted, the slate is wiped clean and we get to watch the drama of the last six years play out all over again with some new case law which is likely to be ignored just like the case law that was already on the books in 2006. If not granted, Don goes to a new sentencing hearing with two of the original charges absent. New appeals could result from either avenue of approach. It's been six years, why not make a decade out of it?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for the update on the legal possibilities, Rob. I've had a number of folks ask about that. Do you see the ugliness from Fuller's divorce case somehow seeping into the Siegelman proceedings? If so, would that help or hurt the Siegelman case?

mrg/vet said...

i recieved an email that makes perfect sense for progressives everywhere,write in Mr. Don Siegelman for president.yes it would be a tragedy if rombot was elected and it might have to get a whole lot worse before people wake up.or we can keep giving our vote for a product that is incremently taking down our public sector and a stooge for corporate and big money interests(fascist) over the masses. so at either this election for president or the possibly the next we all well have a decision to make.a better bet would be to put our energy into electing progressives to the senate and congress so that they could override any unitary decision by the president.and that would mean if rombot was elected his appointment to the supreme court would have to be vetted and approved by hopefully well informed progressives.does this make sense?

Robby Scott Hill said...

Roger - I'm going to have to sidestep your question on the Fuller divorce proceedings seeping in to the Siegelman Case. I sure wish I had a clue on that, but I don't. I do know that the families of both men & their staffs have suffered tremendously because of a case that should never have been brought. Nobody in Alabama should ever again allow Karl Rove to make political decisions in a state where he isn't even a citizen.

Arthur said...

Hey, Legaletc, emulate Romney and change your mind. Listen to your wife. Every vote does count, even in Alabama. Besides, it's a terrible seed to plant for others in states where votes really do matter! So never mind equivocating, vote vote vote. It's not only your right, it's your responsibility. Sitting out proves nothing. (Dear Ms. Legaletc, kick him in the butt if he don't do it.)

Robby Scott Hill said...

By the way, the Barack Obama White House is the most conservative & Republican administration ever led by a Democrat. FBI Director Robert Mueller is well on his way to becoming the next J. Edgar Hoover. The law says FBI Directors may serve a maximum of two 5 year terms. Yet, Mueller was granted a special, third term because of "national security" concerns related to the War on Terrorism. Obama appointed four named Republicans to his cabinet when he took office:

-Ray LaHood, Sec. of Transportation
-John McHugh, Sec. of the Army
-Robert Gates, Sec. of Defense
-Chuck Hagel, Co-Chair of Intelligence Board

While Officially Independent, Timothy Geithner, Sec. of the Treasury, is well-known to run in conservative circles.

Many of Obama's informal advisers like Dick Parsons are conservative Republicans who previously served in Republican White Houses & I'm supposed to believe that His O-ness is a Socialist or even a Liberal Democrat? Bagger Please, he's more conservative than Ronald Reagan.