Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Harvey Silverglate on Federal Prosecutors and Free Speech

Harvey Silverglate has been one of my mentors for the past decade, and I consider him to be one of the greatest men living today. I see it as a real privilege to be able to ask him questions and to get truly wise answers in return.

Today, he has a wonderful and insightful piece on recent demands by federal prosecutors to have someone sentenced to extra years in prison because he had the temerity to speak out openly against them. In other words, they are demanding that speech be criminalized.

Interestingly, when federal prosecutors make outrageous and dishonest statements, they don't demand imprisonment for themselves. Federal prosecutor Amber Rosen told a federal appeals court that it was just fine for the feds to lie, and that defendants had no right to complain.

"Misstatements happen," she said.

Actually, not. What she meant was this: If prosecutors want to lie or say outrageous things, that is just fine and no one has a right to complain, and the courts should ignore whatever we do, no matter how dishonest or downright evil.

This is more than just "free speech for me, but not for thee." No, what federal prosecutors are telling us is that they get to live by a different set of rules. No lie is too outrageous and no conduct ever should be penalized, as long as prosecutors are the ones engaging in that conduct.

One might notice that President Obama did not cover this point in his SOTUS last night, not that I ever listen to presidential speeches, anyway. The prosecutors know that Obama has their backs.

(Thanks to Siobhan Reynolds for the link)

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