LS – Unanimous Court Draws Limits on the Meaning of “Official Act” for Purposes of Federal Public Corruption Law – 08/28/2016

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In its last decision of the 2015 term, Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous Court, defined a more limited scope of enforcement of federal public corruption laws than had been advanced by federal law enforcement authorities, clarifying which actions taken by public officials could be considered “official acts.” In McDonnell v. United States, the Court held that “setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an „official act.‟” Although the decision‟s immediate effect impacts only the case of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, it has broader implications for the enforcement of federal public corruption laws (e.g., bribery, illegal gratuities, extortion, and honest services fraud). In particular, it appears the decision likely will limit the potential liability of public officials who afford access to themselves or other officials for constituents.

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