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The Spitzer Interdisciplinary Roundup From the Blogosphere

New York governor Eliot Spitzer may have thought that he was a law unto himself -- a belief that's rapidly been disproved by recent events.  But blog coverage of the Spitzer scandal suggests that Spitzer, if not a law unto himself, offers fodder for an entire law school curriculum unto itself.  So here's the interdisciplinary roundup of commentary on Spitzer's extracurricular activities.

Constitutional Law - Remember the Mann Act from constitutional law?  That's the federal law that prohibits interstate transport of females for immoral purposes.  The Mann Act is an example of how Congress can use its constitutional authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to regulate activity otherwise traditionally within the province of state law.  As discussed at Talk Left, the Mann Act is potentially relevant in the Spitzer affair: Spitzer arranged for his chosen "escort" to travel across state lines from New York to Washington D.C. for their rendezvous. 

Criminal Law - Obviously, the Spitzer case raises plenty of juicy criminal issues.  At the White Collar Crime Blog, Professor Ellen Pogdor asks if Spitzer will need to be a witness in the case against the four individuals charged with conspiracy, prostitution and money laundering. And she wonders whether the prosecutors might give him immunity. 

Orin Kerr describes the difficulty inherent in evading money laundering laws.  He writes:

[I]t looks like Spitzer got caught because the prostitutes he hired were so expensive that he needed to shuffle several thousands of dollars around each time. Spitzer knew that banks report suspicious money transfers to the IRS to combat financial frauds and money laundering, so he tried to structure his money transfers to avoid suspicion. But the banks thought his activity was still suspicious, so they reported him and the IRS opened an investigation under the assumption that Spitzer was trying to launder money he had obtained from bribes. But he wasn't laundering money — he was paying prostitutes. So Eliot Spitzer, aggressive former white collar crime prosecutor, was brought down because he couldn't outsmart banks looking for evidence of white collar crimes.

Similarly, the  New York Times describes how the Spitzer affair grew out of routine IRS oversight designed to identify suspicious financial transactions such as bribery, political corruption or unlawful campaign finance activities.

Finally, Jon Katz suggests that the Spitzer scandal is a reminder of why  prostitution should not even be criminalized. He writes:

Like marijuana, prostitution needs to be legalized, along with gambling. Once such activities are legalized and drugs are heavily decriminalized, we will have a smaller, less expensive, more efficient, and more trustworthy criminal justice system.

Feminism in the Law - At the Feminist Law Profs Blog, Elizabeth Nowicki seems skeptical that Spitzer will actually be prosecuted for patronizing a prostitute.  She points to the case of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who is being prosecuted in federal court in Washington D.C. for running a prostitution ring, even though her service's male clients, who also broke the law, have not been pursued.  According to Nowicki's research, the number of women arrested for prostitution far outnumber men (in New York State), prompting her to ask, "Will the Eliot Spitzer situation, when juxtaposed with the DC Madam prosecution, prove the point further?"

Ethics - I haven't seen any discussion of ethical ramifications yet.  But Spitzer is an attorney and if he's convicted of a felony or found to have engaged in "crimes of moral turpitude," he'll likely lose his license to practice law.  What are the consequences of disbarment for Spitzer's professional life if he's forced to resign?

Compassion and the Law - O.K., so compassion isn't a topic typically covered in law school. Nevertheless, it's a subject addressed by two bloggers in the context of the Spitzer matter.  At Houston's Clear Thinkers, Tom Kirkendall expresses compassion for the members of Spitzer's family -- though he notes that many of those prosecuted by Spitzer would certainly attest that he showed none for them.  But for Kirkendall, the personal side of the Spitzer affair still doesn't excuse his misuse of the state's overwhelming prosecutorial power to regulate business while he served as attorney general.

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice shares his personal experience of missing out on a position in the Spitzer administration.  Even so, Greenfield harbors no grudges, nor will he "join in the chorus for his ouster."  To Greenfield, forcing Spitzer to resign creates a missed opportunity for him to realize that "his lack of mercy and understanding toward others was terribly wrong" and for Spitzer to become a better person "if he recognizes his hubris."

Update:  More Spitzer commentary and roundup posts at David Giacalone's f/k/a, Professor Bainbridge and Point of Law.


Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 11, 2008 at 04:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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