A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has vacated the conviction of Dean Skelos, a Republican who was the majority leader of the New York State Senate, because of a "charging error" by prosecutors in defining the term "official act" for the purpose of instructing jurors in the case. Mr. Skelos and his son Adam now join the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver; Bank of America, Michael Steinberg, Rengan Rajaratnam, Javier Artajo and Julien Grout, Benjamin Wey, John Pauling, Todd Newman, and Anthony Chiasson on the list of people that federal prosecutor Preet Bharara and his associates at the FBI went after but who were later either cleared by courts or found to have been the victims of problematic prosecutions.
As these examples mount, one might imagine that they might begin to take a toll on Mr. Bharara's reputation. NYU Law School's bio of its "distinguished scholar in residence" reports "Under Mr. Bharara's supervision, the office has brought a series of significant and systemically revelatory public corruption cases against members of New York City and State governments. Notable public corruption defendants include...Former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate Dean Skelos; and Former Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver."
These cases may be "significant and systemically revelatory," but maybe not in exactly the way that Mr. Bharara intends. What they disclose is how far away from the rule of law — and from Robert Jackson's vision of the proper role of the federal prosecutor — the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District ventured under Mr. Bharara's leadership.