Friday, March 14, 2008

Liberal Lawyer Discovers Law, Sadly

Famed liberal lawyer Alan Dershowitz discovered last week that the enforcement of law does not always match the intent of the gods who hand them down to the rest of us.

Prof. Dershowitz is not pleased that federal money laundering and anti-prostitution laws were used as he describes the case in The Entrapment of Eliot in March 13 paper edition of The Wall Street Journal. He describes what happened as a "selective use of overbroad criminal statutes."

He argues about the statutes,

They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the "suspicious financial transactions" attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation.
While Dershowitz makes a point about potential misuse of prosecutorial discretion, his argument is built on an expectation of an exception to the application of the law. That's a weak position in any nation governed by laws, not men. While the professor may have perfect knowledge that Eliot Spitzer's actions did not fit any "of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted," the citizenry must be less certain. He seems to be arguing in favor of secondary prosecution, that the feds should only file money laundering charges when they support other, more serious charges such as racketeering, drug sales or terrorism.

The better solution is better, fewer laws. That way neither people in high places, nor those without friends in high places, need concern ourselves with minor matters such as moving cash around. Instead of tracking everyone's cash movements in order to find the minuscule percentage that are connected to crime, let's go back to finding the crime first then using particular cash movements to support the charges.

It's a peculiarly elitist perspective: Laws are good. Enforcement that I don't like is bad.

Great thinkers always blame the enforcers, never the laws.

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