Jones Day partner Yaakov Roth recognized as 2020 Washington, D.C. Trailblazer by The National Law Journal
The National Law Journal (NLJ) has named Jones Day partner Yaakov Roth to its list of 2020 Trailblazers in Washington, D.C. Through the various Trailblazers special supplements, the NLJ recognizes movers and shakers in the legal industry who have made an impact in their sector through new types of strategies or innovative court cases.
A partner in the Firm's Issues & Appeals Practice resident in the Washington Office, Mr. Roth recently won a unanimous decision (and groundbreaking white-collar precedent) in Kelly v. U.S., the "Bridgegate" case. In May 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed Jones Day client Bridget Kelly's convictions for federal property fraud, setting a critical new precedent in white-collar prosecutions, and adopting the novel positions developed by Mr. Roth.
Ms. Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff for former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and co-defendant William Baroni, the Port Authority Deputy Executive Director, were convicted of fraud for allegedly reducing a town's special access lanes over the George Washington Bridge because the town's mayor refused to endorse Governor Christie. The defendants allegedly disguised the scheme by claiming the lane realignment was for a traffic study. Neither Ms. Kelly nor Mr. Baroni received any money or property as part of the scheme.
The Court agreed with Jones Day's argument that a public official does not commit property fraud under the federal statutes simply by abusing the state's regulatory choice – the object of the fraud must be to obtain money or property. The Court also rejected DOJ's assertions that Kelly's actions were property fraud because they caused the state to lose money. Again agreeing with Jones Day, the Court held that a victim's loss that was the incidental cost of the regulation, rather than the object of the scheme, is not sufficient to convict for property fraud. The Court's decision will rein in federal prosecutors seeking convictions for property fraud as prosecutors must now prove that a defendant's object was to misappropriate government property.
The Kelly case is the second recent major federal corruption decision by SCOTUS where Mr. Roth played a significant role, having authored the successful bail application, certiorari petition, and merits briefs in persuading the Court to overturn political corruption charges against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Mr. Roth's successful legal theories for McDonnell enabled success for other similar cases, including Ms. Kelly's, that followed.