Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice for giving non-responsive answers to questions in a grand jury. As Judge Fletcher told the government in the oral argument in the 9th Circuit en banc challenge to his conviction, “I find your reading of the [obstruction of justice] statute absolutely alarming.” And for good reason — Judge Fletcher thinks that the government’s interpretation of obstruction of justice would mean that most civil lawyers are felons.
There are a lot of ways to violate federal laws that are related to obstruction of justice. You can lie to a federal agent who is coming to your house to interview you and violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. You can commit perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621. And there are a host of other false statement statutes specific to other regulatory schemes (like false statements in connection with a tax filing, or a health care request for payment, etc.).
All of those laws, though, require that the person who is being prosecuted make a false statement.
Obstruction of justice is different. Instead of having concrete elements like “making a false statement”, obstruction of justice criminalizes willfully “obstruct[ing], imped[ing], or interfer[ing] with” whatever is being allegedly obstructed.
Here, Barry Bonds didn’t make a false statement. Instead, he gave an answer that was non-responsive. The government’s theory was that Barry Bonds didn’t give a responsive answer to a question in order to throw the government off (because, apparently, having the temerity to force an AUSA to listen to questions in a grand jury and ask a follow-up question is the kind of thing that ought to brand you a felon).
And that was “obstructing” the federal law enforcement apparatus.
There are a lot of things wrong with this prosecution. The one I want to focus on is the lengths the federal government will go to in order to protect AUSAs from having to do the same basic work that the rest of the legal community does routinely.
* As a public service, here’s a very good guide about what criminal activities should NOT be talked about on Facebook. [Slate]
* It’s getting to that time of year when law students’ minds turn from finals preparation and towards the violent overthrow of the government. [McSweeney's]
* Finally, the full story on how reporter T.J. Quinn eavesdropped on Barry Bonds’s grand jury testimony without violating any laws. Go New York Daily News lawyers! [Deadspin]
* There allegedly was a female soldier prostitution ring at Fort Hood, lead by the unit’s sexual assault prevention officer. Now watch as somebody uses this to argue that women shouldn’t be in the military. [Gawker]
* Winners from Detroit’s bankruptcy filing include lawyers, don’t really include Detroit. [Am Law Daily]
* Here we go — proof that the internet is racist is coming. [Forbes]
* Rutgers-Camden Law has been fined and censured for allowing applicants to use something other than the LSAT without asking the ABA nicely if it could do so first. This is what the ABA cares about. Those are the questions they had for Rutgers. What was left off the list of ABA inquiries: Rutgers-Camden’s favorite color? [ABA Journal]
* The four female Supremes gathered last night (and kept RBG up past her bedtime) to celebrate the unveiling of a lifelike painting of themselves that’ll be on display for years. You go girls! [Reliable Source / Washington Post]
* Now that cloture’s been filed on a would-be D.C. Circuit judge, these judicial nominations are getting exciting. You should probably get ready for a battle royal on Patricia Millett’s qualifications later this week. [Blog of Legal Times]
* The women over at Holland & Knight must be pregnant with glee now that the firm is offering incredibly attractive paid maternity and adoption leave packages in the hope of retaining its lady lawyers. [Daily Business Review]
* Aww, Barry Bonds wants the Ninth Circuit to rehear his obstruction of justice conviction with 11 judges instead of three. Perhaps he thinks that more judges will equal more sympathy. [San Jose Mercury News]
You’ll have to excuse me if this post comes off a bit more confused or muddled than it usually does. It’s being written amidst the swirl and din of Valentine’s Day preparations. This year, I’m making dinner which I thought would be the easier (read: cheaper) option. Listen, there’s a reason I’m poor. And it’s not because I’m secretly a genius. This is the dumbest thing I’ve done. Just got back from the grocery store, where I spent a small fortune on one (still hypothetical) meal. Have I mentioned I can’t cook? This is a Hindenburgian disaster and I wish I could blame my girlfriend or the Valentine’s Industrial Complex. Maybe love itself for the way it blinds you to your inability to measure up, if only briefly. But no, none of these are the likely culprit. As I already said, there’s a reason I’m poor. A reason I’m financing a T14 debt burden on a TTT salary. I’m humble enough to admit that the only reason I continue to make bad decisions is a simple one: I think my mom smoked crack while she was pregnant with me.
Vince Young is broke. Or, he may be broke. At any rate, Vince Young is currently financing a Pro Bowl debt burden on a waiver wire salary.
* “I don’t think I should have to pay anything back, because I wasn’t part of the management that drove the firm into the ground.” Dewey know when it’s time to stop complaining, pay up, shut up, and move on? [DealBook / New York Times]
* Good news, everyone! According to the Citi Midyear Report, based on the first half of 2012, Biglaw firms may have trouble matching last year’s single-digit profit growth. You thought the worst was over? How embarrassing for you. [Am Law Daily]
* Apparently Andrew Shirvell didn’t do a very good job questioning himself on the stand, because the former Michigan AAG now has to shell out $4.5M in damages for defaming Chris Armstrong. [Detroit Free Press]
* Six of one, half a dozen of the other: Barry Bonds’s lawyers filed a reply brief in their appeal of his obstruction conviction, arguing that his statements were truthful but nonresponsive, as opposed to being misleading. [AP]
* “We’re crazy about sex in the United States. I call it ‘sexophrenia.’” The Millionaire Madam’s attorney had a nutty yesterday after a judge refused to dismiss a prostitution charge against his client. [New York Daily News]
* The opposite of a fluffer? Los Angeles officials seeking to enforce the city’s new adult film condom law are beginning a search for medical professionals to inspect porn shoots for compliance. [Los Angeles Times]
* Paul Bergrin wants to represent himself in his racketeering case. They say that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client, but that’s not the case when you’re considered the Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
* Hordes of Biglaw lawyers couldn’t stop the DOJ from trying to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. New antitrust issues abound, like “higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products.” They already have a monopoly on crappy coverage. [Am Law Daily]
* The truth? You can’t handle the truth! That, or you don’t really care about it when it comes to Barry Bonds. The big-headed baseball MVP will not face a retrial on his perjury charges. [CNN]
* Jessica Beagley managed to avoid jail time at sentencing. Come on, judge, you could’ve at least given her a taste of her own medicine: hot sauce and a cold shower. [WSJ Law Blog]
* BitTorrent porn? On my grandma’s computer? It’s more likely than you think. After this California granny scolded Steele Hansmeier, the lawsuit against her was dropped. She mailed the firm a Werther’s Original in thanks. [Huffington Post]
* Nudity first, names later. I like this sheriff deputy’s alleged style. A girl in Utah is suing over a roadside traffic rendezvous that she says turned into an illegal strip search. [Standard-Examiner]
Did Lester Munson get his law degree by staying at a Holiday Inn Express?
Last night, Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice, while the jury hung on all other counts, resulting in a mistrial as to those counts. We posted about it.
Now, I don’t expect non-lawyers to really understand what “obstruction of justice” means. I certainly don’t expect them to understand what a “mistrial” is. But I do expect anybody who has been through 1L year at an American law school to understand these concepts. I certainly expect law professors to understand these terms. And I freaking demand that legal analysts charged with making sense of this issue for ESPN — the WORLDWIDE LEADER IN SPORTS — have a basic grasp on what the hell is going on.
ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson, you, sir, have failed. Failed at your job. Failed at being a thought leader. Failed at failing in a funny, non-offensive way.
Even 1Ls won’t believe the kind of tripe Muson has been spewing on ESPN…
After four days of deliberating over whether or not former baseball great Barry Bonds lied about his use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, the jury could not reach agreement on a number of charges the government made against Bonds.
But the feds nailed him on the obstruction of justice count. From ESPN:
The guilty verdict on obstruction of justice means the jury believed Bonds hindered a grand jury’s 2003 sports doping investigation by lying.
The judge, after speaking to the jury foreman, said she believes the mistrial is the proper decision given that the jury believes it has reached a crossroads.
* On the same day that Lady Kaga wrote her first dissent, Governor Deval Patrick nominated Barbara Lenk, an openly gay woman, to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Big week for… uhh, female judges. [New York Times]
* The prosecution in the Barry Bonds case rested their case yesterday, and the judge is considering throwing out previous testimony about Bonds’s shrunken testicles. National League something something small ball. [San Francisco Chronicle]
* Fordham Law School hosted a conference on Bob Dylan and the law, featuring “law professors, a Dylan historian, a disc jockey and a guitar player.” Then she opened a book of poems and handed it to me. Written by an Italian jurist from the 20th century. And every one of Scalia’s words rang true and glowed like burning coal. [City Room / New York Times]
* White O’Connor, the Hollywood entertainment-law firm, is merging with “NYC white-shoe powerhouse” Kelley Drye. [Deadline.com]
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