U.S. Supreme Court gives Conrad Black another chance - Macleans.ca

U.S. Supreme Court gives Conrad Black another chance

Fraud convictions could be thrown out


The full opinion is here:

The court ruled that the “Honest Services” statute under which he was convicted was interpreted too broadly.

The jury should have been told it only applies to bribery and kickback schemes. (A few judges wanted to strike it down as unconstitutionally vague altogether.)

It’s a short decision. The reasoning on the Honest Services statute is laid out in detail in a separate opinion in the case of Enron’s Jeffrey Skilling, also handed down this morning. That decision is here.

Update: I should add it’s unclear to me at this moment whether the case goes back to the same jury with new instructions, or whether the whole process starts from square one.

Update 2: I shouldn’t have said a new trial in the headline. First it goes back to the appeals court.

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U.S. Supreme Court gives Conrad Black another chance

  1. Convicting him again will be twice as sweet.

  2. Meanwhile, Conman Black has four years left to serve on his obstruction of justice conviction. Pyrrhic victory indeed.

    • Actually, according to this Globe and Mail article, the appeals court might now be forced to take a look at the obstruction of justice matter, too. Overall, not a good day for the Conrad Black haters, is it.

  3. We demand a new trial for Conrad Black! We want to see the Eddies sleep while Black squirms and blames his lawyers for his failure to testify. We want more Blackness!

  4. To answer the question in your first update, there would have to be a new trial with a new jury for a variety of reasons. Even if you could get the old gang back together, which is probably impossible on any practical level, you would have to deal with the fact that the jurors have been biased by the prior instructions and their prior finding of guilt. Also, many of them have probably been exposed to media coverage after the trial ended. Of course, as you point out, it will go back to the Court of Appeals for technical reasons before it eventually gets back to the trial court for a retrial.

  5. Regardless of what one thinks of Conrad Black, this is an important decision by the US Supreme Court.

    • You might be interested in the Chicago Reader piece: His Father's Honor
      Why the son of a shamed former Illinois governor is so interested in the Supreme Court's review of the "honest services" law

  6. This is great news… looks like Kory has another correspondent!

    • I predict the word 'fenestration' will quickly replace 'windows' in the popular lexicon!

      • I, for one, am running Fenestration XP on my computer. Must be ahead of the crowd…..

        • Have any of you written authoritative scholarly works on at least two American presidents? While building a global publishing empire? Next.

          • This should give him an exemption fron the law? I know you're a big fan of his, but really.

          • Of course not, but it's apparently given you yet another exemption from making a half-intelligent post.

          • Thanks Dennis, we all know Kory is in the process of building a great global empire, but I did not realize he was also an accomplished author.

          • Boy, you don't know basic facts about Conrad Black?

          • Just messing with you Dennis… but since you are up to date on all things Black, do you know if he has been allowed to bring his toy soldiers into his cell?

          • Since you care so much about it, I'll see what I can find out. Or maybe not.

          • I'm actually fairly fond of Black, and respect his biographies, but I'm fairly sure they aren't regarded as either authoritative or scholarly by the, er, scholarly community. Mass market bios generally aren't regarded as such unless written by once-in-a-generation scholars.

            I know that this is a bit of an argument-by-authority, but it is what it is. It isn't an academic/non-academic thing, but rather that you have to be an absolutely amazing scholar to try to pull of the "biography at Chapters that also gets cited in journal articles."

          • I've read his biography of Nixon, and I don't think it can be considered a "mass market bio." I'll leave it to you to wonder why scholars might not consider his work "scholarly."

          • I'm sorry, but I think you've misunderstood my point, or rather perhaps I could have put it better. You called his books "authoritative (&) scholarly". My point is that they are clearly neither. Not because they aren't good, but because 1) they are not written by an authority, nor constitute Black as one, and 2)they are not scholarly. Scholars overwhelmingly don't write bios. Journalists and authors do. Scholars write extremely tightly woven articles that focus on active debates in their professional literature. Those articles occasionally get turned into books, but that is again because those small arguments congeal into a larger point of interest to those arcane debates. It is very rare for scholars to write bios, as it is seen as an extremely ambitious undertaking that transcends audiences.

            When a media baron writes biographies, with clear political goals, and then doesn't publish them in scholarly presses but rather with Perseus, so that lots of people buy them at Chapters or Indigo, that's the definition of mass market. That's not a bad thing, and it isn't an east-coast-elite conspiracy that kept him out of HUP, OUP, PUP, etc.. The east-coast conspiracy, if there was one, was to get a generally unqualified author a big-time book deal in the first place.

            The above sounds aggressive. I don't mean it to be. I basically like Black, and I bet I would learn a lot from his books. He's a great writer and an impressive dude. The issue here is whether or not his work is authoritative or scholarly, and whether we should throw them around when considering Black's legacy. Personally, I didn't like you using those terms to dismiss a lighthearted commentator, when it is clear you don't understand what you are talking about.

          • I think it is aggressive. While I may have used the wrong adjectives in describing his work, I think you do, too.

            Don't scholars write biographies all the time? Doris Kearns Goodwin, Stephen Ambrose, and Douglas Brinkley are just a few names that come to mind.

            Quite frankly, I find it rather odd to suggest that scholars can't or shouldn't write biographies that both contribute to academia and expand public knowledge in general.

          • I agree it's an absolutely ridiculous assertion that scholars don't write biographies. Yeesh. How about Bullock's biography of Hitler, for starters. If you parse the resumes of University faculty members for their publications, guess what comes up consistently: biographies.

          • I didn't say that they don't, I said that they "overwhelmingly don't" – the vast majority of historians find much better things to do with their time. Similarly, most really good mass market bios of 20th century politicians are done by journalists who covered them in some capacity. This means that most mass-market bios are really interesting to most relevant scholars, but not as works of scholarship but rather as works of long-form journalism.

            My point was that the activities were generally apples and oranges, that you have to be exceptional to speak to both audiences at once – the people you two mention are indeed exceptional, and they definitely do contribute in special ways to both academia and public knowledge. But this is to mistake the exceptions for the rule.

            I won't be responding further, because this is basically the sort of thing that could go on forever. We'll have to agree to disagree. I can't prove that I'm right, and the same goes vice versa.

          • ooooh, that would have been so stinging had you not included the word authoritative"!

          • Thanks for showing up!

  7. Conrad Black was railroaded by the 'legal' system – it's not a justice system.

    The CBC should be sold to Conrad Black for a dollar, he has a proven track record in media and it would then be worth watching. Also, watching the tyrannically-minded socialist's head's explode would be amusing.

  8. Interesting that prison appears to have only improved Conrad Black's reputation.

    • The way he has responded to these difficulties says a lot about him. No whining, complaining, or fake apologies; he has contributed to his fellow detainees, continued to contribute positively to journalism in general, and may end up doing a lot of other people a favor by beating back some over-zealous prosecutors.

      • He'd be a lot more tolerable without the self-important bluster and complete inability to admit mistakes.

        • You don't have to admit mistakes when you weren't, in fact, wrong.

          • Why did he remove those boxes then? Why would he violate a court order if he didn't do anything wrong?

          • In fact, removing the boxes is, in itself, wrong without anything more.

            And even if his corporate stewardship was legal (and it doesn't look like it was), it was atrocious in a business sense and he fleeced his trusting shareholders. The people who put the money into his company which he used for his own private purposes are well rid of him.

            It takes a great deal of hubris to sit back and say Mr. Black has done nothing objectionable.

  9. Prosecutors use this honest services law because it is notoriously difficult to hold these white collar criminals to account in the first place – they need the latitude that this law affords them. The last thing we want is for US enforcement to become as seemingly worthless and inept as Cdn. regulators are when it comes to convicting these guys.

  10. I suspect it says less about The Lord than it does about the tendencies of the Roberts court.

  11. Hats off to Conrad for having such a huge impact! He's the reason that the unconstitutional law has been defanged.

    I still think he might be convicted on the three counts though if the US decides to prosecute again, since I think the non-compete agreements were fraudulent.

  12. If you talk to corporate lawyers and corporate law scholars (at least those who don't have some personal bias against Conrad Black) about the case, you'll find that many of them found the original conviction to be problematic. A huge problem at the centre of the case (although it wasn't necessarily central to the appeal) was this: Black was accused of defrauding the company. A central tenet of corporate law is that directors are responsible for administering the business and affairs of the company. Black clearly disclosed all of these transactions to the Hollinger board of directors AND the board approved the transactions. That clearly was established at trial. So here's the rub: How can you be held to have defrauded the company when the company clearly knew what you were doing AND approved what you were doing? That was always my central problem with the prosecution's case.

    • Even if the directors were aware and approved, that does not mean it's not fraudulent. It just means that the directors were not doing their job. You might even accuse them of being complicit, although that would be a difficult case to prove, they were more likely just negligent. The owners of the company are the shareholders, not the directors, nor the employees. So you cannot say that the owners were aware.