The Second Circuit Clarifies Corruption Standards Following Supreme Court’s McDonnell Decision

July 20, 2017

The Second Circuit issued decisions in two public corruption cases involving the convictions of former Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver and former New York State Assemblyman William Boyland.

The decisions are among the first to apply the Supreme Court’s decision last year in United States v. McDonnell, which narrowed the scope of what constitutes an “official act” under the federal honest services and Hobbs Act extortion statutes.  Notably, in Boyland, the Court also declined to extend the reasoning of McDonnell to 18 U.S.C. § 666, a separate federal statute prohibiting bribery in connection with federal programs, which was charged against Boyland but not against either McDonnell or Silver.  This result likely signals that, at least within the Second Circuit, courts are unlikely to export the heightened McDonnell standard to other corruption statutes, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.