Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Conrad Black’s Supreme Court Free Roll

Conrad Black has won a U.S. Supreme Court review of his fraud conviction for taking money from hapless investors. He has been serving his sentence for a little over a year now and hopes to be released by the Supreme Court. Black has nothing to lose and much to gain from this appeal.

Black and others were convicted of giving themselves illegal bonuses of $6.1 million. This money is just a small slice of the total amount in question during the investigation into Black’s actions. The cost of employing lawyers to continue his defense up to the Supreme Court is not a concern.

In poker parlance, Black is on a free roll. At worst if he loses the appeal his situation remains the same and he is forced to serve the remaining 5 years of his sentence. At best he will be released soon. It would be much more entertaining if there was some downside risk attached to this appeal.

In most cases, I see appeals to higher courts as an effective means of keeping lower courts in line. But this case doesn’t have that feel for me. One gets the feeling that if Black is released, it won’t have much to do with guilt or innocence. The evidence against Black seems very clear, and something is needed to add interest.

What if this was a double-or-nothing opportunity? If Black wins, he gets out, but if he loses, his remaining sentence increases to 10 years. That would be entertaining.


  1. Thicken My Wallet: Thanks for the informative comment. With your mention of civil recourse, it occurred to me that I haven't heard anything about plans for civil action. Have I just missed it or is there civil action moving ahead?

    1. The comment above is a reply to Thicken My Wallet's comment:

      Without speaking to the American law, the threshold of fraud is quite high. Although I in no way support what Black did, there is legal argument what he did justified civil recourse but not a criminal conviction.

      What interests many in the legal community is that Supreme Courts typically don't hear these types of appeals which suggests the odds favor Black.