Kelly v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: June 28, 2019
  • Case #: 18-1059
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 909 F.3d 550 (3d Cir. 2018)

Whether a public official defrauds the government by citing a traffic study as the purpose of realigning the George Washington Bridge and causing a gridlock when political motives drove the public official’s actions.

Federal prosecutors alleged that officials at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey created a gridlock on the George Washington Bridge to punish a town mayor for refusing to endorse the governor. The prosecutors charged the officials and Petitioner with wire fraud, theft from a federally funded entity, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy against civil rights. A jury convicted the officials and Petitioner on all counts. The Third Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Third Circuit reversed the two convictions premised on civil rights, reasoning that no clearly established constitutional right to interstate travel exists, but affirmed all other convictions based on a theory that the officials and Petitioner defrauded the Port Authority of property in the form of lanes and employee labor. Petitioner argues that the Third Circuit’s decision conflicts with Court precedent and other circuits’ decisions. Specifically, Petitioner cites Court precedent to argue that gridlocking the bridge affected a regulatory, rather than proprietary government interest. Petitioner also cites Court precedent related to fraud statutes as establishing that citizens do not have an intangible right to have public officials perform their duties honestly and that such regulations only protect property rights in specific circumstances. Petitioner concludes that the Third Circuit’s broad view of property fraud effectively revives this rejected right to good government while making regulations of specific forms of fraud superfluous.

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