Cases & Deals

Alaskan legislator obtains favorable ruling from U.S. Supreme Court, narrows reach of honest services fraud statute

Client(s) Weyhrauch, Bruce

On June 24, 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jones Day client Bruce Weyhrauch, a former Alaska state representative who was accused of committing a federal fraud because he did not disclose that he was seeking employment from a company with an interest in a tax law bill pending before the state legislature. Prior to Jones Day's involvement in the case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the federal government had authority to prosecute Weyhrauch under the honest services fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1346, for failing to disclose a purported conflict of interest. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded that opinion for reconsideration in light of its decision that the honest services fraud statute is constitutional only if limited to bribes and kickbacks.

Before the Supreme Court, Jones Day argued that the honest services fraud statute cannot be interpreted to allow the federal government to prosecute state officials for nondisclosure when the official has no independent disclosure obligation without rendering the statute unconstitutionally vague. The Court unanimously agreed that § 1346 is plagued by vagueness, and a six-Justice majority held that the statute is salvageable only if confined to cover bribery and kickback schemes. Concurring in the judgment, three other Justices concluded that § 1346 is unconstitutionally vague and cannot be saved. In effect, the Court's opinion precludes the federal government from prosecuting Weyhrauch under its proposed nondisclosure theory.

Weyhrauch v. United States, No. 08–1196 (U.S. Supreme Court)