Conrad Black’s victory at the Supreme Court today rewards an inspiring example by the press baron of the virtues of courage and fortitude and the belief in personal honor. On the appeal of Jeffrey Skilling of Enron, the court found fault with the law, known as the “honest services statute,” under which Skilling and Black were, in separate and unrelated cases, convicted. Then, in Black’s case, a unanimous Supreme Court vacated the ruling against Black by a panel of judges who ride the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
Not a single justice supported the Seventh Circuit’s ruling against Black. So his case will get a new look in light of Skilling. It is too soon to know the exact way in which court’s decision will affect Black’s conviction and the sentences he has been serving in a federal prison at Coleman, Florida. But it’s not too soon to say that against extraordinary odds, Black has won a famous victory, one that will help protect all businessmen and women who have been, or might some day have been, targeted through the use of a vague statute on honest services.
The Sun, in which Black’s company was an early investor and which Black himself served as a founding director, published a number of pieces on his case. Remarks that the editor of the Sun made to the staff of the paper when Black was convicted are here. Our editorial on his appeal for a full hearing by the judges who ride the Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals is here. An analysis of the case by Michael Rips, a former clerk to Justice Brennan who wrote a number of brilliant dispatches for the Sun, is here.
Our newspaperman’s instinct holds us back, at this juncture, from an expression of jubilation. Black, after all, is still behind bars at the federal correctional center at Coleman, Florida, which is, we can report from having visited Black there, no country club. But this morning’s rulings were a big step in the right direction, and we will be rooting for him through the next stages of the legal process, as we have at every stage in this long case, believing, as we do, that an innocent man has been in prison and would not be there but for inattention to the bedrock of the Constitution.