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Plea Deals Involving State Officials
Posted By Gerard Magliocca On February 13, 2013 @ 2:25 pm In Constitutional Law | 3 Comments
Suppose the Governor of Illinois is indicted on federal corruption charges. The US Attorney offers a plea that includes a requirement that the Governor resign. This does constitute federal interference in the internal affairs of a state government, but nobody would say that this is unconstitutional. After all, the resignation is not a mandate. It is a choice that the Governor can reject to go to trial.
Now let’s change this a bit. Suppose the US Attorney includes as part of the plea deal that the Governor veto some state bills that federal prosecutors do not like, or appoint certain people to state offices (say, as a judge.) Would that be unconstitutional? One thought is that the answer is still no. Only a federal mandate counts as commandeering. Any coercion, whether through spending or other means, that retains a choice is constitutional. Another thought is that the answer is yes because that is going beyond the traditional bounds of a plea agreement or reaches issues that are not just (or primarily) personal to the subject of the indictment the way that a resignation is.
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