We have an absolutely terrific smorgasbord of first-class readings today! First, though, let’s focus extra attention on this: Two very important pieces out in recent days revolve around an issue I’ve been writing on for seven years — or, rather, the tandem issues of what’s known as “overcriminalization” and prosecutorial abuse. You’ll see below that heavyweight conservative columnist George Will has now fully entered the fray, which is great news.
Overcriminalization is what happens when more than 44,000 federal regulations, even the most piddly little things, carry criminal penalties for violating them, even if the violator had no idea the silly regulation even existed. Prosecutorial abuse is when prosecutors on power trips misuse that endless web of regulatory criminalization to bludgeon their targets into guilty pleas and sometimes absurdly long incarceration.
I’ve written multiple times about the seafood importers here in southern Alabama who spent eight years imprisoned because, first, they imported lobster tails in plastic instead of cardboard, and then because it turned out that, by a very small percentage fraction, a few too many of the lobster were of juvenile size. Both regulations weren’t even part of U.S. law, but were Honduran law applied here through something called the Lacey Act, which makes American importers subject to foreign environmental law. Never mind that, as it turned out, the Honduran law in question had already been revoked: The importers here still had to serve their prison terms.
Now let me be very clear: I’m usually on the side of prosecutors. I’m a strict law-and-order guy. The problem is with a minority of prosecutors who let their vast discretionary powers go to their heads.
Anyway, the lead items of today’s roundup continue to put a spotlight on these problems, which are uniting conservatives (against a too-powerful government) with liberals/civil libertarians (interested in mercy) in a way that now has the attention of Congress and that might, finally, pay off in some reforms in the next year or two. Thank goodness.
Read: When everything is a crime, by George Will, and:
The runaway prosecutor who almost lost Iraq, by Arthur L. Herman at National Review, which should recall this and this as well, about the case of Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame (the awful movie version of which was mis-told in Fair Game).
The rest of the roundup is here:
Book Review: … Lost Provisions of the Constitution, review by Hans von Spakovsky of book by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee.
Persecuting Believers Does Not Protect Anyone’s Civil Rights, by former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese and former ambassador J.Kenneth Blackwell.
Nixon, Hillary and the Tapes, by former U.S. Senator (and former Senate Watergate counsel) Fred Thompson.
Rand Paul’s Uncertain Trumpet, by Rich Lowry.
… and from the thoughtful center/center-Left: A Great ‘Wall of Sand’ in the South China Sea, by the Washington Post editorial board….
and from the all-too-rarely-thoughtful Left, Why we miss the unpolarizing Pat Moynihan, by E.J. Dionne Jr.