Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously overturned the public corruption conviction of Virginia’s former governor, Robert F. McDonnell.
The action of the Court was not a surprise to many, if not most, legal experts who had viewed the instruction to the jury in the case as to what constitutes “official acts” as being so broad that they could cover most any action that a public official takes. At the same time, there is concern that the Court’s decision will make it much more difficult to prosecute public officials on corruption charges.
The case is not yet fully resolved. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the Appeals Court to decide if there was sufficient evidence to hold a new trial or if the charges will be dismissed. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling there is not likely to be a new trial, and the charges will be dropped.
The court of public opinion may offer a different verdict. Even in writing the decision of the total court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. stated that “there is no doubt that this case is distasteful, it may be worse than that. But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.”
The legal arguments may be lost on many in the general public who watched and listened during the weeks of the trial of McDonnell and his wife taking $175,000 in gifts and loans from a rich businessman who clearly sought their favor. It may not be illegal, but it clearly is “tawdry” as the Chief Justice stated and is for many inappropriate, sleazy, distasteful and beneath the expectations of his office.
The real damage to holding public officials accountable would come if the ruling results in prosecutors being unwilling to bring charges against those who are clearly involved in corruption. The court of public opinion can make its verdict known only to the degree that corrupt actions on the part of elected officials are made known.
The charges against McDonnell resulted in a multi-year effort on the part of the General Assembly to rewrite the state’s ethics laws. That task must be continued to ensure that elected officials and the public understand the rules of ethical behavior and that breaches of the rules are prosecuted.
The task is complicated, particularly for part-time legislators who spend most of their year in their home districts with numerous interactions with constituents. Legitimate constituent services must not be confused with payback. Nor should social interchanges with constituents be somehow discouraged.
Former Governor McDonnell has not escaped scrutiny or damage to his reputation. The court of public opinion will see to that as it should. As the Supreme Court’s verdict in his case shows, however, the lines have not been delineated with enough detail. Stronger and clearer ethical laws must be written and vigorously enforced.
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The Ravel Dance Studio will re-open for fall classes 2020. The school will offer in person and virtual online instruction. With over 5000 sq. ft. to social distance the school has added air ionization filtration systems, ballet barres, acrylic dividers, hands free bathrooms, strict monitoring and more.
The Ravel Dance Studio will produce a Nutcracker Ballet Hollywood style video through the Reston Community CenterStage. REGISTRATION online begins August 17.
Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many. He embodies grace, positivity and motivation in ways that no one else can. If we could all learn a thing or two from him, the world would be a much better place. He does so much for others, and does so with a smile on his face 99% of the time.
He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy. CG is no longer able to work and do what he loves for the time being because of this and we’d love your support.