ACSBlog

  • November 4, 2014
    BookTalk
    Too Big to Jail
    How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations
    By: 
    Brandon L. Garrett

    by Brandon L. Garrett, Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law. Since the 2011 publication of Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, Professor Garrett has written widely on issues of criminal procedure, scientific evidence, corporate crime, and the law. This fall, Harvard University Press published his new book, Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations.

    Prominent cries of “too big to jail” greeted the decision by federal prosecutors in 2012 not to convict HSBC, the international bank headquartered in London.  When HSBC was investigated for violations of international sanctions with countries like Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma, and, if that were not enough, facilitating the laundering of “at least $881 million in drug proceeds,” it paid a then-record penalty of $1.4 billion.  The scale of the violations was shocking.  And prosecutors described concerted efforts to help dirty money transactions avoid detection, with internal notes like:  “care sanctioned country,” “do not mention our name in NY,” or “do not mention Iran.”  Drug cartels used cash boxes “designed to fit the precise dimensions of the tellers’ windows in HSBC’s Mexico branches.”  When HSBC’s compliance officers raised alarms, they were “discouraged” and ignored.

    “We accept responsibility for our past mistakes,” said the bank’s CEO at the time HSBC settled the case.  A corporate monitor would supervise a revamping of compliance.  The bank had hired hundreds of compliance employees and spent millions improving anti-money laundering programs.  But the bank was not convicted of any crime.  This galled advocates, editorial boards, members of Congress, and the public.  The same day prosecutors filed their case, they asked the judge to approve what is called a deferred prosecution agreement.  The case would be put on hold to give the bank a chance to show good conduct.  A money laundering conviction could have resulted in termination of the bank’s U.S. charter.  Yet no employees or officers were prosecuted either.  At the time, Assistant-Attorney General Lanny Brueur explained: “Our goal here is not to bring HSBC down, it’s not to cause a systemic effect on the economy, it’s not for people to lose thousands of jobs.”  And upon announcement of the settlement, HSBC shares rose

  • November 4, 2014

    by Paul Guequierre

    Today your Facebook and Twitter feeds are likely full of posts from your friends telling you to vote. This morning when I turned on my computer I was instantly bombarded with ads and posts telling me who to vote for and others saying it doesn’t matter who I vote for, as long as I vote.  Admittedly I shared the first post I saw, which depicted a big button that said “Vote.” I added my own little commentary saying I hope my friends in D.C. and back home in Wisconsin vote today. I voted early last week, so in my mind I had done my civic duty. I smiled at my Facebook post thinking all my friends will see how civic-minded I am. Then reality hit.

    It was easy for me to vote early last week. I had the luxury of taking a long lunch hour and walking to the early polling place with two colleagues. As I walked in I was a tad annoyed when I was told there would be about a five minute wait. There was no line, how could there be a wait, I thought. But it was no big deal, for me anyway. I’m paid salary, not hourly, and I have an understanding boss who encourages me to vote. I didn’t have to worry about missing work, not making money while I took the time to walk to the polling place and cast a ballot. My biggest worries were the sudden drop in temperature which made it a rather chilly day and the ridiculous five minute wait, which actually ended up being only about a three minute wait. Still I rolled my eyes.

    But I voted and my vote will be counted, there’s no question about that. Regardless of whether the people I voted for win, I know I wasn’t disenfranchised. I never even had to worry about that. That’s not the case for far too many people in this country.

  • November 4, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Lawrence O. Gostin, University Professor and Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center, and Eric A. Friedman, Associate at O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

    As fears of Ebola sweep the nation, several governors are instituting quarantine and other restrictive policies based on fear, not science. These appear to reflect political agendas and responding to the public’s clamoring for greater protection, expressed as an over-abundance of caution. But the rule of law stands precisely to prevent the state from depriving individuals of liberty based on irrational or exaggerated public fear. Legal standards on the state’s police powers to protect the public’s health and safety are well developed. Civil confinement of individuals who have not committed an offense is a massive deprivation of liberty that requires a clear justification beyond public fear. State statutes and constitutional law require sound scientific evidence of significant risk, reflecting a delicate balance between public health and civil liberties. Current quarantines (and calls for travel bans) are reminiscent of 19th Century views of walling off borders, which is impossible in a modern globalized world.

    The touchstone of the law is public health necessity. Imposed quarantines represent a significant burden on people’s liberty, leading courts and legislators to create a high standard that must be met for mandatory quarantines. States such as New York require that quarantines be “necessary” to protect the public’s health. New Jersey's quarantine law requires a quarantine to be “by the least restrictive means necessary to protect the public health.” Simply put, a quarantine that is at odds with public health and scientific knowledge is also at odds with the law.

  • November 4, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    Justice Watch, the blog for Alliance for Justice, explains why a Republican-controlled Senate does not necessarily doom the judicial confirmation process for Obama-nominated judges.

    Jeffrey Rosen has a less optimistic view, and argues in The New Republic that the death of a justice during a Republican Congress would lead to disaster.

    Russel Berman reports in The Atlantic that a challenge to the filibuster survived a recent Supreme Court challenge.

    At SCOTUSblog, Amy Howe discusses Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the Jerusalem passport case, and what yesterday’s oral argument signals about how the Supreme Court will decide the case.

    Irin Carmon of MSNBC reports on the numerous ballot measures that challenge reproductive rights throughout the country.

  • November 3, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Atiba R. Ellis, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law. Follow Professor Ellis on Twitter @atibaellis

    The debate over voter identification laws in this election season has shown once again that the voter fraud debate has shaped the right to vote over the last decade.  Recently, voter identification laws in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas – passed on the belief that the integrity of elections must be defended against the imminent threat of voters who will impersonate other voters and otherwise commit fraud—has spurred substantial litigation and, most recently, generated a hotly contested denial of a stay of the Texas voter ID law over a scathing dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

    Scholars like Lorraine Minnite, Richard Hasen, Justin Levitt and others, have shown that this voter fraud claim is a myth. Yet, right-leaning pundits like Hans von Spakofsky and Mona Charen have argued that voter fraud will likely occur in the 2014 election. Thus, some pundits, politicians and grassroots organizations like True the Vote see rampant voter fraud as real and looming, despite all research to the contrary.

    This voter fraud claim is often seen as partisan-motivated propaganda or a means perpetuating racial subordination – some call it the return of Jim Crow. Yet, as I argue in an article recently published in the Catholic University Law Review, these claims must be connected to the long saga of voter suppression in the United States. In The Meme of Voter Fraud (also available here), I explain that the voter fraud myth is the latest step in the evolution of the American ideology of exclusion – the belief that “unworthy” citizens should be excluded from the electorate. 

    A meme (an idea based on evolutionary theory) is any idea, belief, concept or behavior that spreads and replicates in the culture. Memes replicate through, among other ways, the sharing of narratives, teaching, or posting on the Internet (think cat videos!). Memes are appealing because they play into a person’s experiences, and on some level people identify with them. This fact prompts a person to share the idea, and the most attractive memes spread virally. As a meme spreads, people often modify it to attract a broader audience.  The new recipients will in turn transform the meme again and replicate it, causing it to evolve (and the changes that fail cause that particular meme to die off). A meme’s appeal and its ability to meet our psychological needs – for instance, for political or social power – causes people to spread memes, not the truth or falsity of the meme.

    People can connect one meme with other memes to develop a complex set of ideas – an ideology – which we use to view the world. And, as scholar J.M. Balkin has observed, ideologies that spur us to action to subjugate the rights of others inevitably result in injustice. Memes can enable power plays, and those most invested in maintaining that power maintain the meme to this end, despite any oppression that might occur.