Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Student Investigation into Public Corruption in New Jersey

It's time to 'fess up: in the spring semester of 2009 a team of students in my course in fact investigation began an investigation of public corruption in New Jersey. The investigation centered on one public official in Jersey City. I mention this because the cat is, so to speak, already out of the bag: on July 23, 2009, the FBI arrested 44 persons in the New York City metropolitan area. Many of those persons were public officials in New Jersey who were effectively charged with taking bribes from a person they mistakenly thought was a real estate developer who was seeking official favors in exchange for money. The person who offered and gave the bribes was in fact a fellow who had gotten into a bit of trouble with the law himself -- in part by successfully(!) passing a bad check for $25 million at a bank drive-through window -- and who decided to cooperate with federal authorities and set up a massive sting, all in an effort to mitigate the punishment that he would eventually be given for his own federal crimes.

I am teaching fact investigation again this fall. My class and I will have to decide whether it is both possible and prudent to try to complete the investigation that the spring semester's fact investigation class began. The difficulties facing any such investigation are formidable: witnesses with something to hide will be especially wary, and federal authorities may not appreciate efforts by law students to investigate matters they may still be investigating. So the hurdles facing a continuation of last semester's investigation are substantial. But perhaps there is a sensible and useful way for my students to go forward with this investigation into public corruption in New Jersey. My students and I will discuss this issue in several weeks, which is when classes at my law school start up again. But I will not report in public the decision that my students and I reach. Sorry!


The dynamic evidence page

Coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

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