Prosecutorial overreach and the “sick culture” of the Department of Justice

As a follow-up to my post last week on overreach by federal prosecutors, I highly recommend an excellent piece by lawyer Dan Kennedy on Aaron Swartz and the “sick culture” that pervades the Department of Justice. A few excerpts:

It seems never to have occurred to [the federal prosecutors] that there is something wrong with overcharging, and then raising the ante, merely to wring a guilty plea to a dubious statute.

Nor does it occur generally to federal prosecutors that there’s something wrong with bringing prosecutions so complex that they are guaranteed to bankrupt all but the wealthiest.

. . . .

However, the culture of the U.S. attorney’s office will continue undisturbed — unless the bar refuses to tolerate that the federal courthouse has become a place of torment rather than a palace of justice.

Kennedy also notes (referring to a piece in The New Yorker by lawprof Tim Wu), that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak hacked the phone system in the 1970s, making their illegal and infamous “blue boxes” to make money. Should they too have been jailed? If you say yes, then you should also throw away your iPhones, Macs, and iPods.

When we kill the Aaron Swartzes of the world, we are killing our innovators, the “Apples” of tomorrow. As Kennedy says, “with the DOJ unable to differentiate real criminals from overzealous bright kids, we are incarcerating, if not killing, our national future.” A wonderful read.

HT to Slashdot.org. Cross-posted at Infoglut Tumblr.

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