How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison, Alschuler, 2015
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Valparaiso University Law Review Volume 50 Number 1 Issue 1 How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison Albert W. Alschuler University of Chicago Recommended Citation Albert W. Alschuler, How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison, 50 Val. U. L. Rev. 7 (2015). Available at: http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 This Article is brought to you for free and open access by the Valparaiso University Law School at ValpoScholar. It has been accepted for inclusion in Valparaiso University Law Review by an authorized administrator of ValpoScholar. For more information, please contact a ValpoScholar staff member at email@example.com. pp.7-87 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison Memoir HOW FRANK EASTERBROOK KEPT GEORGE RYAN IN PRISON Albert W. Alschuler* TABLE OF CONTENTS I. II. III. IV. A. B. C. V. A. B. VI. A. B. C. VII. A. B. C. VIII. IX. A. B. C. X. A. B. XI. INTRODUCTION.......................................................................................... 7 THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: TWO VIEWS OF JUDGE EASTERBROOK....... 8 THE GOALS OF THIS MEMOIR AND HOW IT WILL PROCEED ................. 16 THE PROSECUTION AND CONVICTION OF GEORGE RYAN ..................... 20 The “Intangible Right of Honest Services” .............................................. 20 Indictment and Trial ................................................................................ 24 Jury Deliberations, Verdict, and Appeal .................................................. 27 THE ROUTE BACK TO THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT ........................................ 31 The Supreme Court Decides Skilling ...................................................... 31 Ryan Returns to the District Court ......................................................... 32 THE ARGUMENT FROM HELL ................................................................. 38 Judge Easterbrook Emerges ...................................................................... 38 I Get Hit by a Truck ................................................................................. 40 The Government Gets Hit by the Truck .................................................. 49 JUDGE EASTERBROOK OPINES ................................................................. 53 Concocting Something Else: A Fantasy Forfeiture ................................. 53 Disregarding and Concealing the Government’s Waiver ........................ 58 Possible Explanations .............................................................................. 63 A MINI-VICTORY IN THE SUPREME COURT AND A NEW ARGUMENT ... 65 JUDGE EASTERBROOK OPINES AGAIN .................................................... 67 Another Concocted Waiver ...................................................................... 67 Poor at Counting ..................................................................................... 70 At Long Last: The Court Addresses the Issues Briefed by the Parties .... 75 LARGER LESSONS AND SOME PROPOSALS FOR REFORM ........................ 81 Decent Procedure in an Adversary System ............................................. 81 Correcting Errors ..................................................................................... 85 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................... 87 I. INTRODUCTION This Memoir tells the story of my unsuccessful representation of former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan in the U.S. Court of Appeals for * Julius Kreeger Professor Emeritus of Law and Criminology, the University of Chicago. 7 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 8 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 the Seventh Circuit. It describes how, in opinions authored by Judge Frank Easterbrook, the court made six rulings in favor of the government the government had not sought. All of these rulings were questionable or worse, and the court afforded Ryan no opportunity to address most of them until after Judge Easterbrook’s opinions had been published. In addition, this Memoir documents eight falsehoods told by Judge Easterbrook in written opinions and statements from the bench. These falsehoods included statements that the trial court gave instructions it did not give, that both the defendant and the government made arguments they did not make, that litigants in the Supreme Court made arguments they did not make, that the defendant and the government waived or forfeited arguments they did not waive or forfeit, that the Supreme Court said things it did not say, and that several of the defendant’s sentences had expired when they had not expired. This Memoir notes that Judge Easterbrook’s appearance on the panel that heard Ryan’s appeal was not the result of random assignment. It shows that the government played no part in producing his falsehoods. It describes his bullying of counsel on both sides and urges his colleagues to recognize the problem his conduct poses for their court. II. THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: TWO VIEWS OF JUDGE EASTERBROOK Judge Frank Easterbrook’s reputation is a paradox. Widely praised by legal academics, he is often disparaged by the lawyers who practice before him. Legal scholars have written that there are only two “superstars” among active American judges not on the Supreme Court— Easterbrook and his colleague on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Richard Posner. 1 Two of these scholars ranked Easterbrook and Posner with the late Henry Friendly and Learned Hand, declaring that these judges’ opinions “dominate and define the legal ‘canon.’”2 With Justice Scalia in attendance, Judge Easterbrook recently gave the first Scalia Lecture at the Harvard Law School. 3 When See Stephen J. Choi & G. Mitu Gulati, Choosing the Next Supreme Court Justice: An Empirical Ranking of Judge Performance, 78 S. CAL. L. REV. 23, 74 (2004); Mitu Gulati & Veronica Sanchez, Giants in a World of Pygmies? Testing the Superstar Hypothesis with Judicial Opinions in Casebooks, 87 IOWA L. REV. 1141, 1143 (2002); Margaret V. Sachs, Superstar Judges as Entrepreneurs: The Untold Story of Fraud-on-the-Market, 48 U.C. DAVIS L. REV. 1207, 1211 (2015) (“Within the ranks of sitting federal circuit judges, Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner stand out as the ‘superstars’ in multiple respects.”). 2 Gulati & Sanchez, supra note 1, at 1143. 3 Lana Birbrair, Judge Easterbrook Delivers Inaugural Scalia Lecture: Interpreting the Unwritten Constitution, HARVARD LAW TODAY (Nov. 20, 2014), http://today.law.harvard.edu/judge-easterbrook-delivers-inaugural-scalia-lectureinterpreting-unwritten-constitution-video/ [http://perma.cc/9AY5-S2DB]. 1 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 9 Swarthmore awarded him an honorary degree in 2012, the college’s president proclaimed, “[Y]our wise leadership of the seventh-circuit Court of Appeals has made you one of the nation’s most influential and respected judges.”4 The Wikipedia entry about Judge Easterbrook notes that one University of Chicago lecturer referred to him as “the world’s greatest living jurist.”5 The only bar association evaluation ever conducted of Seventh Circuit judges is now getting old.6 It occurred in 1994 when Judge Easterbrook had been on the bench for nine years.7 This evaluation by the Chicago Council of Lawyers criticized Judge Easterbrook more severely than any other judge on the court.8 Although the report praised his intelligence, breadth of knowledge, writing style, and work ethic, it faulted his treatment of lawyers, his willingness to decide cases on grounds not addressed by the parties, and his misstatements of law and fact. On the first point (mistreatment of lawyers), the Council declared that Judge Easterbrook “has consistently displayed a temperament that is improper for a circuit judge.”9 It noted: Lawyers reported that Judge Easterbrook goes well beyond asking pointed questions; rather, he "attacks" lawyers in an attempt to establish that the advocate has not understood the case or that the judge's knowledge is superior to that of the advocate. Such behavior often continues well after the judge has made his point; Judge Easterbrook has gone so far as to cause attorneys to break down, unable to continue effectively.10 Easterbrook Awarded Honorary Degree by Swarthmore College, U. OF CHICAGO NEWS (June 4, 2012), http://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/easterbrook-awarded-honorary-degreeswarthmore-college [http://perma.cc/S3HM-LRP4]. 5 Frank H. Easterbrook, WIKIPEDIA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_H._ Easterbrook [https://perma.cc/9YG6-ZNSL] [hereinafter Easterbrook, WIKIPEDIA]. 6 See Chicago Council of Lawyers, Evaluation of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 43 DEPAUL L. REV. 673 (1994). 7 See id. at 747. 8 The Council saw “no point in rating judges with life tenure” in the same way it rated candidates for the bench. It offered “only a narrative description of their performance.” Id. at 676. On my reading, however, the Council viewed twelve of the fifteen judges it evaluated positively and most of these judges very positively. It sharply criticized only three—Judges Coffee, Posner, and Easterbrook. The Council’s criticism of Judge Easterbrook was more severe than that it offered of Judges Coffee and Posner. 9 Id. at 760. 10 Id. 4 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 10 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Lawyers described Easterbrook as “arrogant and intolerant” 11 and contended that he “displays a contempt for attorneys and, to some extent, the litigants as well.”12 Lawyers said that they “rarely feel like they have received a fair hearing.”13 Complaints about the judge’s demeanor were “resounding”14 and “consistent,”15 proceeding even from attorneys who praised other aspects of his work. 16 On the second point (disregard of the parties’ presentations), the Council noted, “Judge Easterbrook is one of the court’s chief practitioners of deciding issues that have not been briefed by the parties.” 17 His dicta are “extensive and free-wheeling,” and he invokes them as authority in later decisions.18 On the third point (misrepresenting facts and law), attorneys described Judge Easterbrook’s use of precedent as “unreliable and inappropriate.”19 They also claimed that he “mischaracteriz[es] the record below in order to reach certain results.”20 Judge Easterbrook “can communicate a lack of respect for the facts of a case and for precedent.” 21 The Council concluded, “[P]articularly when he disregards the facts or the law, [Judge Easterbrook] acts like the worst of judges.” 22 My sense is that Judge Easterbrook’s reputation among practitioners is no better today than it was in 1994. A blogger still insists that Easterbrook “makes advocates appearing before him wet themselves in fear.”23 The judge himself told an interviewer in 2013 that he has in his chambers “a little political cartoonish thing that was given to me by my law clerks that has me, on the bench, pressing ‘the button,’ which I sometimes use metaphorically, that opens a trapdoor under the lawyer, Id. Chicago Council of Lawyers, supra note 6, at 747. 13 Id. at 760. 14 Id. at 747. 15 Id. at 709. 16 Id. at 760. 17 Id. at 756. 18 Chicago Council of Lawyers, supra note 6, at 758. 19 Id. at 757. 20 Id. at 758. 21 Id. at 747. 22 Id. at 761. See also Anthony D’Amato, The Ultimate Injustice: When a Court Misstates the Facts, 11 CARDOZO L. REV. 1313, 1325–47 (1990) (complaining that Judge Easterbrook repeatedly misrepresented the record in Branion v. Gramly, 855 F.2d 1256 (7th Cir. 1988)). 23 David Lat, Star Witnesses: Judges Posner, Easterbrook and Bauer Testify Against Hal Turner, ABOVE THE LAW (Mar. 3, 2010, 7:00 PM), http://abovethelaw.com/2010/03/star-witnessesjudges-posner-easterbrook-and-bauer-testify-against-hal-turner/ [http://perma.cc/X9V9SDHW]. 11 12 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 11 and shooting a lawyer down the 27 floors . . . . ”24 As this Memoir will show, the characteristics that prompted the bar’s criticism of Judge Easterbrook—his disdain for lawyers, for the principle of party presentation, and for truth telling—have not abated. Efforts to explain why academics and practitioners view Judge Easterbrook differently may suggest that the two groups have different outlooks.25 My guess, however, is that the values of the two groups do not differ much or explain much. More significant is the fact that some lawyers feel the sting of Judge Easterbrook’s abuse personally. Even when academics are aware of Judge Easterbrook’s conduct on the bench and have reservations about it, they can imagine that it reflects the judge’s unwillingness to suffer fools gladly. The principal reason for the differing perceptions of practitioners and academics may be neither differing outlooks nor differing personal experiences. It may be instead that practitioners know things academics do not know. An academic who is impressed by an engaging, wellwritten opinion cannot easily determine whether this opinion misrepresents the record of the case before the court or the arguments of counsel. He is also unlikely to know whether the opinion falsifies precedent. Most cases cited by a court of appeals are unfamiliar to most academic readers, although they are usually well known to the lawyers who filed the briefs. This Memoir will dissect two opinions by Judge Easterbrook that on first reading might strike you as convincing and nicely done. 26 It will tell the story of my representation of George H. Ryan, a former Illinois governor serving a sentence for mail fraud who sought a new trial following the Supreme Court’s decision in Skilling v. United States.27 The Memoir will describe six rulings in favor of the government set forth in Judge Easterbrook’s opinions although the government had not sought them. Violating standards articulated by the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit gave Ryan no opportunity to address several of these rulings until after the opinions had been published. I hope to convince you that the government had good reason for not endorsing these rulings; all of them were preposterous. This Memoir will also describe eight falsehoods told by Judge Easterbrook in written opinions and in statements from the bench. By Interviews with United States Court of Appeals Judges: Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, 5 SCRIBES J. LEGAL WRITING 1, 1 (2013). 25 The practitioners’ explanations may imply that professors are pedants, and the professors’ may imply that practitioners are plumbers. 26 See Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012); Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 27 561 U.S. 358 (2010). 24 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 12 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 falsehoods, I do not mean minor misunderstandings or misinterpretations; I mean whoppers. Anyone who checks can confirm that these statements were false, and I encourage skeptical readers to check. This Memoir will also describe Judge Easterbrook’s abusive demeanor on the bench. For the most part, my narrative will proceed chronologically, but I will take Falsehood Number Seven out of order and tell you about it now. I offer this example out of order (1) so that you can see what I’m talking about and (2) so that I can discuss at the outset whether the judge’s misrepresentations should be regarded as innocent, negligent, grossly negligent, reckless, or deliberate. Describing this falsehood will inform you not only about one of Judge Easterbrook’s misstatements of the record but also about one of the legal rulings he concocted—a ruling Ryan had no opportunity to address until he filed a petition for rehearing. The misrepresentation I am about to describe appeared in Judge Easterbrook’s second opinion in the Ryan case. By the time of this opinion, it was clear that the instructions given to the jury at Ryan’s trial were flawed. These instructions marked several paths to conviction. They told the jury to convict if Ryan failed to disclose a conflict of interest, if he violated any of a number of state laws, or if he accepted bribes. After Ryan’s conviction, the Supreme Court held in Skilling that failing to disclose a conflict of interest is no crime and that state-law violations do not establish the federal crime of depriving the public of its right to honest services. The statute that Ryan allegedly violated outlawed only schemes to give or receive bribes or kickbacks.28 The erroneous jury instructions did not automatically entitle Ryan to a new trial. The error would be harmless if the jury found that Ryan had in fact accepted bribes. Judge Easterbrook’s opinion for the Seventh Circuit concluded that the jury must have found bribery, and it offered three reasons for this conclusion. The first one was: Ryan was convicted on four tax counts, which involved omitting income from tax returns. Bribes are “income” under the Internal Revenue Code; gifts from friends are not income. The jury was so instructed. The jury also was told that it should acquit Ryan if he believed that the money he received was a gift, rather than a payment for favors delivered in return, even if his belief was wrong. By convicting on the tax counts, the jury found that Ryan knowingly accepted payment in exchange for official 28 See Skilling, 561 U.S. at 411–12. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 13 acts—that he was bribed, rather than just that he failed to disclose gifts to the public.29 That reads well, don’t you think? It seems entirely convincing. But every statement is a fabrication. The government never claimed that Ryan failed to pay taxes on the payments it alleged were bribes. Ryan was indeed convicted of tax violations, but they concerned other payments entirely. The alleged bribes had nothing to do with the tax counts. When Judge Easterbrook noted that bribes are income and gifts are not and then declared, “The jury was so instructed,” he made it up. No instruction resembling the instruction he described had been given. When Judge Easterbrook added that the jury was told to acquit if Ryan mistakenly believed the money he received was a gift rather than payment for services rendered, he again deceived his readers.30 The government had not misled Judge Easterbrook. It had not claimed that Ryan’s tax convictions bore on whether the jury found that he took bribes. Judge Easterbrook’s misrepresentation was especially astonishing because this was not the first time he had made it, and my co-counsel and I had complained to him and his colleagues about his earlier fabrication. In his first Ryan opinion, he wrote: The record shows . . . that [Ryan] received substantial payments from private parties during his years as Secretary of State and Governor. The failure to report and pay tax on this income underlies the tax convictions. The debate at trial on the racketeering and mail-fraud charges was whether these payments were campaign contributions, plus gifts from friends and well-wishers, or were instead bribes . . . .31 This statement had no bearing on the issues Judge Easterbrook discussed in his first Ryan opinion. My co-counsel and I nevertheless decided to note its falsity in our petition for rehearing en banc, hoping (foolishly) that underlining the judge’s penchant for confabulation would make his colleagues more attentive to other, more consequential misstatements. Quoting the passage recited above, we wrote, “The panel See Ryan, 688 F.3d at 849–50. See Trial Transcript at 22922–27 (Mar. 10, 2006), United States v. Warner (N.D. Ill. 2006) (No. 02 CR 505) (the trial court’s tax instructions). A full transcript of the instructions in Ryan’s case is available from the author. 31 Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 918 (7th Cir. 2011), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 29 30 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 14 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 exhibited as little regard for the facts as it did for the law.”32 We then explained: In fact, the tax charges focused on Ryan’s alleged use of campaign funds for personal expenses (a use that was lawful but that constituted income), his receipt of a consulting fee from the Phil Gramm presidential campaign, and a few other alleged payments . . . . None of these payments were alleged to be bribes. All of the mail fraud charges of which Ryan remains convicted concern benefits he and others (mostly others) received from Lawrence Warner and Harry Klein. . . . Only these benefits are now alleged to be bribes, and none played any part in the tax charges.33 If someone accused you of falsifying facts in a document circulated to your co-workers, you might feel chagrined (especially if the accusation was accurate), but you are not Judge Easterbrook. When Ryan’s case returned to him a year later, he concocted the same nonsense. Judge Easterbrook probably had forgotten the correction, if he ever noticed it, and this time his misstatement constituted the court’s leading argument on the central issue in the case. Our petition for rehearing following the second opinion complained about this misstatement and others,34 but the court denied the petition without correcting any of its errors. What could Judge Easterbrook have been thinking? The most charitable and most likely explanation is that, because Ryan had not challenged his tax convictions after Skilling, Judge Easterbrook knew nothing at all about the tax charges. Without bothering to check, he imagined that these charges concerned the payments alleged to be bribes, and, again without checking, he guessed what jury instructions the court would have given if the charges had concerned these payments. On these assumptions, I consider the word “falsehood” appropriate. Judge Easterbrook did not write: “Here’s my guess,” or “Here’s what I think probably happened.” An appellate judge is in a position to know what charges have been filed and what instructions have been given, and a tentative or qualified statement concerning these facts would have tipped readers off that something was amiss. So Judge Easterbrook made 32 Ryan’s Petition for Rehearing with Suggestion of Rehearing En Banc at 5, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 918 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 10-3964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 33 Id. 34 See Ryan’s Petition for Rehearing with Suggestion of Rehearing En Banc at 5–9, Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012) (No. 10-3964). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 15 the sort of firm pronouncement one expects in a judicial opinion. This pronouncement would have led readers to believe he had examined the record himself or else had relied on a party’s uncontested description of this record. By offering an unqualified statement when he knew he was guessing, Judge Easterbrook deliberately deceived his readers. Perhaps, on the assumption I’ve made about his mental state, one could characterize Judge Easterbrook’s misstatements as reckless rather than purposeful.35 If one is extremely charitable, one might even call these misstatements grossly negligent rather than reckless.36 Whatever the appropriate label might be, this Memoir will show that Judge Easterbrook persistently presents wildly inaccurate, made-up statements as unquestionable statements of fact.37 The Wikipedia entry about Judge Easterbrook mentions the Chicago Council of Lawyers’ criticism of his demeanor, but it observes that “the Council did not specify authorship, so the criticism is anonymous.”38 The entry adds: [T]his review by the Council was never repeated, lending partial support to the defenders of Easterbrook and Posner that the report was an opportunity for anonymous venting by lawyers who were unhappy with the results of Seventh Circuit decisions, in no small part thanks to the decisions of Reagan appointees Easterbrook and Posner. Posner has recently commented about the report, “You have here some anonymous people who are talking to the Chicago Council of Lawyers. How much credence should we put on these people? They can be sore losers. They can be crybabies.” 39 Judge Easterbrook probably did not know when he insisted that certain jury instructions had been given that they had not been given. He probably imagined that they had been. If believing that a made-up statement is likely to be true makes a charge of lying inappropriate, you might prefer a different word—perhaps “confabulating.” Cf. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 279–80 (1964) (declaring that a reckless disregard for the truth can qualify as “actual malice”). 36 Cf. MODEL PENAL CODE § 2.02 (AM. LAW INST., Proposed Official Draft 1962) (defining recklessness and criminal negligence). If Judge Easterbrook failed even to advert to the possibility that his guesses might be wrong, one could plausibly describe him as grossly negligent. If he realized that his guesses might be wrong and nevertheless offered them as fact, “reckless” would be a better word. 37 Even if one were to characterize Judge Easterbrook’s misstatements as grossly negligent at the time he made them, these misstatements would have become something worse when he left them uncorrected after lawyers noted them in petitions for rehearing. 38 Easterbrook, WIKIPEDIA, supra note 5. 39 Id. 35 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 16 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Because a judge must pick a winner and a loser in every case, the lawyers who criticized Judge Easterbrook probably had lost as many cases before the judges they praised as they had before him. They evidently did not cry whenever they lost. Eight of the fifteen judges they evaluated had been appointed by President Reagan, and the lawyers reviewed most of these judges favorably. The reason these critics remained anonymous was apparent: they suspected that revealing their identities would lead to unprovable retaliation against them and their clients. I am in a different position from these critics. I have retired, and I can be sure that I will never again appear before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. I can afford to say out loud what practicing lawyers can only whisper. To the charge of being a sore loser and a crybaby, I plead guilty. I think that lawyers should be sore losers and whiners when judges cheat. III. THE GOALS OF THIS MEMOIR AND HOW IT WILL PROCEED This Memoir may contribute to the study of judicial reputation by showing how a judge whose reputation in the academy is ace-high can in fact be a terrible judge. The Memoir also will draw some general lessons about fair procedure in an adversary system, and it will propose some reforms. My main purpose, however, is not to contribute to the study of judicial reputation, to draw general lessons about the adversary system, or to propose institutional reforms. It is to tell the truth about Judge Easterbrook. I have several reasons for complaining publicly about this judge’s conduct. First, I hope that this Memoir will bring a pardon closer for George Ryan. Ryan deserves a pardon, not because he’s a saint, but because his government has treated him badly. Senator Dick Durbin encouraged President Bush to release Ryan from prison after he had been there less than a year,40 and the case for clemency is much stronger now. Ryan is eighty-one, and he’s completed his sentence. As this Memoir will show, he was almost certainly punished for conduct that is not a crime. In my fantasy world, Judge Easterbrook himself might recognize that his work in Ryan’s case was imperfect, and he might write the President to support a pardon. The judges who joined Judge Easterbrook’s opinions, Judges Diane Wood and John Tinder, might join him or else write letters of their own. But I know that the odds of such judicial redemption in the real world are probably negligible. 40 See Durbin to Ask Bush to Commute Ryan Sentence, HUFF. POST (May 25, 2011), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/01/durbin-to-ask-bush-to-com_n_147485.html [http://perma.cc/6ZMW-XCZX]. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 17 Even if a pardon for Ryan is a pipe dream, this Memoir may lead Judge Easterbrook to hesitate before making up law, facts, and grounds of decision that no one else has imagined. At a minimum, it may prompt him to check some citations. Most importantly, I hope that this Memoir will encourage Judge Easterbrook’s colleagues to rein him in. Like almost everyone else, these colleagues sometimes seem intimidated by Judge Easterbrook’s personal forcefulness and apparent intellectual power. When the judge speaks with confidence and an apparent mastery of detail about a subject one knows nothing about, one is likely to assume that he knows what he’s talking about. The odds, however, are that he doesn’t. If questioned or challenged, he is likely to double down and push his bluff farther (“Right. I understand that. That’s what the D.C. Circuit held in Frady and which the Supreme Court reversed.”41), but the questioner should not yield. Judge Easterbrook’s colleagues should view everything he says with skepticism and should recognize the serious problem his conduct poses for their court. Even if this Memoir produces no change in Judge Easterbrook’s behavior or the performance of his court, the taxpayers who pay Judge Easterbrook’s salary should know the kind of service he provides in return. Although the Constitution guarantees an Article III judge life tenure,42 it is instructive to consider how falsehoods like his would fare in professions other than his. Would a journalist who made similar misstatements keep his job? Would an academic who showed no greater regard for the truth get tenure? Would a corporate executive who misstated crucial facts in a business report be given a second chance? Before I review Judge Easterbrook’s conduct, I will describe the principal crime with which Ryan was charged and the course his case took before it reached Judge Easterbrook. This Memoir will proceed for twenty pages before Judge Easterbrook appears at center stage again, but it would be difficult to compress into less space a case that began with a 114–page indictment and continued through a six-month trial, eighteen days of troubled jury deliberations, a Seventh Circuit decision that led three judges to dissent from the court’s denial of rehearing en banc, a transformation of the applicable law by the Supreme Court after Ryan began serving his sentence, and a post-conviction proceeding that generated a fifty-eight page opinion in the district court. 41 See Oral Argument at 3:19, Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012) (No. 103964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012), http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/ 2011/migrated.orig.10-3964_05_31_2011.mp3 [http://perma.cc/S247-27LF]. 42 See U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 18 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 This Memoir will note Judge Easterbrook’s unexpected appearance on the panel that decided Ryan’s post-Skilling appeal—an appearance that was not the product of random assignment. It will describe an oral argument that consisted in large part of Judge Easterbrook’s demand that counsel discuss four Supreme Court decisions that neither party had cited and that I, at least, could not recall. Judge Easterbrook declared that these decisions precluded Ryan from challenging in post-conviction proceedings the instructions that had directed his conviction for non-criminal conduct. In fact, none of the decisions offered any support for this proposition; they bore no resemblance to his description. In dozens of cases, the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit, and other courts have allowed post-conviction challenges to instructions directing conviction for non-criminal conduct. Judge Easterbrook similarly browbeat the government’s lawyer at argument for failing to notice that Ryan’s post-conviction petition was barred by the statute of limitations. He evidently overlooked a Seventh Circuit decision holding that petitions like Ryan’s are not barred. That decision was directly on point, and its author was Judge Easterbrook. After recounting the argument in Ryan’s case, this Memoir will describe Judge Easterbrook’s first opinion. This opinion offered a ground of decision that not only had not been advanced by the government but that no judge had mentioned at argument. Judge Easterbrook declared that Ryan had forfeited his objections to the undisclosed-conflicts instruction and the other instructions directing his conviction for noncriminal conduct. He did not mention that Ryan had objected to these instructions at every stage of the proceedings. He also did not mention the government’s express waiver of any claim that Ryan had forfeited his objections. As we pointed out at the earliest opportunity (in our petition for rehearing), disregarding the government’s express waiver was unlawful, but the court did not correct its error. In an effort to distinguish Ryan’s case from Skilling and another case decided the same day, Black v. United States,43 Judge Easterbrook made a series of statements about how the defendants in Skilling and Black had preserved their claims. Like most of what Judge Easterbrook said in his initial opinion, these statements had no element of truth. The Supreme Court vacated Judge Easterbrook and his colleagues’ first Ryan decision and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of Wood v. Milyard.44 In Wood, the Supreme Court declared once again that 561 U.S. 465 (2010). Ryan v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (remanding for reconsideration in light of Wood v. Milyard, 132 S. Ct. 1826 (2012)). 43 44 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 19 an appellate court may not disregard the government’s waiver of a procedural defense. In his opinion on remand, however, Judge Easterbrook did not acknowledge his improper disregard of the government’s concession that Ryan had made appropriate objections to the district court’s instructions. Instead, he falsely attributed to the government a sweeping waiver it had not made. Judge Easterbrook’s second opinion announced that the court would refuse to review four of Ryan’s mail fraud convictions at all (convictions that at least one member of the panel apparently was unwilling to affirm). Again, Ryan was afforded no opportunity to address the court’s ruling until after it was made; neither the government nor any judge at either of the two arguments in Ryan’s case had indicated that the court might refuse to review his convictions. Judge Easterbrook justified his refusal to review the four convictions by declaring that Ryan’s sentences on these convictions had expired, but they had not expired. Even if they had, none of the three doctrines Judge Easterbrook mentioned would have supplied even arguable justification for refusing to review his convictions. Because the court agreed to review three other mail fraud convictions, Judge Easterbrook turned at last to the question the parties had briefed in the Seventh Circuit more than a year before—the question of harmless error. In addressing this question, however, Judge Easterbrook once more disregarded the parties’ arguments and confronted Ryan with a ruling that the government had not sought and that neither Judge Easterbrook nor any other judge had mentioned at argument. This Memoir already has noted his ruling that, by convicting on the tax counts, the jury must have found that Ryan took bribes. Judge Easterbrook set forth two additional reasons for judging the instructional errors in Ryan’s case harmless, but in presenting these reasons, he continued to misstate the record. Unless you represent prisoners or the government in post-conviction proceedings, this Memoir is likely to teach you lots of law you don’t know. You will learn about direct review, collateral review, § 2255, waiver, forfeiture, harmless error, plain error, cause and prejudice, retroactivity, mootness, vested good time, the custody requirement, the concurrent sentence doctrine, and the different statutes of limitations that apply to first and second post-conviction petitions. In other words, this Memoir will inundate you with “lawyers’ law,” defined as “law of no interest to anyone but lawyers.” Even if you are a lawyer, you may find some of this law challenging. Challenging law provides the best opportunity for judicial flimflam. Examining Judge Easterbrook’s falsehoods about such things as whether one party waived or forfeited another party’s waiver or forfeiture can get tedious, but, in criticizing the performance of a widely Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 20 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 respected judge, I think it prudent to be thorough and to leave as little as possible to rebuttal. This Memoir will quote at length from Judge Easterbrook’s opinions and from the oral argument in Ryan’s case, and it will describe in some detail the precedents Judge Easterbrook falsified. The Memoir will conclude by arguing for two propositions: (1) that a judge should never rest a decision in whole or in part on a ground the parties have had no prior opportunity to address and (2) that whenever a judge learns before his court issues its mandate that an opinion he has joined contains a clear error, he should act to correct this error. He should do so even if the error does not seem outcome-determinative or important. IV. THE PROSECUTION AND CONVICTION OF GEORGE RYAN At the end of a six-month trial, a federal jury convicted George Ryan of tax violations, false statements to the F.B.I., mail fraud, and racketeering.45 The racketeering conviction depended on the mail fraud convictions; if they fell, it would too. In the proceedings that came before Judge Easterbrook, we did not challenge Ryan’s tax and false statement convictions but focused on the racketeering and mail fraud charges. A. The “Intangible Right of Honest Services” Honest services fraud is a type of mail fraud. The mail fraud statute forbids devising any scheme to defraud and then placing something in the mail for the purpose of executing the scheme. 46 This statute, enacted in 1872, was aimed, not at dishonest government officials, but at swindlers who used the mails to peddle things like phony western mining stock. 47 45 Apart from his legal troubles, Ryan is best remembered for declaring a death penalty moratorium in 2000 and then emptying Illinois’ death row in 2003. He pardoned four deathrow inmates on grounds of innocence and commuted the sentences of 167 others. Before Ryan became Governor, he had been Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, a five-term member of the House, and Chair of the Kankakee County Board. Altogether Ryan held elective office for thirty-six years and statewide elective office for twenty. He never lost an election and was the longest serving elected official in Illinois history. See JAMES L. MERRINER, THE MAN WHO EMPTIED DEATH ROW: GOVERNOR GEORGE RYAN AND THE POLITICS OF CRIME 1, 7 (2008); Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, NAT’L GOVERNORS ASS’N, http://www.nga.org/cms/home/governors/ past-governors-bios/page_illinois/col2-content/main-content-list/title_ryan_george.html [http://perma.cc/JRT6-P8FX]. 46 See 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (2012). 47 The sponsor of the statute declared that it would “prevent the frauds which are mostly gotten up in the large cities . . . by thieves, forgers, and rapscallions generally, for the purpose of deceiving and fleecing the innocent people in the country.” See McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 356 (1987) (quoting CONG. GLOBE, 41st Cong., 3d Sess. 35 (1870) (remarks of Rep. Farnsworth)). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 21 Federal prosecutors pressed courts to stretch the statute, and, particularly in the 1970s, they did. By 1987, nearly every federal court of appeals held that the statute outlawed deprivations of the intangible right of honest services.48 In 1987, however, the Supreme Court held in McNally v. United States49 that the statute outlawed only deprivations of property, not of an ill-defined intangible right to honest services. Defendants who had been convicted of mail fraud in the years before McNally then sought post-conviction relief. They noted that the juries that convicted them had been directed to convict on the basis of conduct that was not a crime. The prosecutors who had pleaded for honest-services instructions before McNally then maintained that the erroneous instructions had made no difference. In almost every case, they argued that it would have been impossible to deprive the alleged victim of honest services without also depriving this person of property.50 While the Justice Department argued to the courts that honestservices instructions made no difference, it complained to Congress that McNally had deprived it of an important tool in its fight against government corruption.51 Congress promptly responded by enacting a new section of the mail fraud statute that read in full, “For the purposes of this chapter, the term ‘scheme or artifice to defraud’ includes a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.” 52 The federal courts of appeals rejected arguments that this statute was unconstitutionally vague.53 They agreed that accepting a bribe or kickback deprived the public of its right to honest services, and they said that other things did too. As the Supreme Court later observed in Skilling, however, the courts were in “considerable disarray” about what the other things were.54 See id. at 362–64 (Stevens, J., dissenting). 480 U.S. 350 (1987). 50 Examples include United States v. Mandel, 862 F.2d 1067, 1073–74 (4th Cir. 1988), in which the Fourth Circuit set aside the conviction of a former governor of Maryland because the court could not say “‘with a high degree of probability’ that the jury did not rely on the legally incorrect theory” and Messinger v. United States, 872 F.2d 217, 221 (7th Cir. 1989), in which the Seventh Circuit concluded that “the jury necessarily had to convict Messinger for defrauding Cook County of its property right . . . notwithstanding any intangible rights theory employed.” 51 See Mail Fraud: Hearing on H.R. 3089 and H.R. 3050 Before the Subcomm. on Crim. Just. of the House Comm. on the Judiciary, 100th Cong. 8–11 (1988) (statement of John C. Keeney, Acting Assistant Att’y Gen. for the Crim. Division of the Dep’t of Just.). 52 18 U.S.C. § 1346 (2012). 53 See, e.g., United States v. Hausmann, 345 F.3d 952, 958 (7th Cir. 2003); United States v. Gray, 96 F.3d 769, 776–77 (5th Cir. 1996); United States v. Bryan, 58 F.3d 933, 941 (4th Cir. 1995). 54 See Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 405 (2010). 48 49 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 22 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 An opinion by Judge Easterbrook supplied the Seventh Circuit’s basic standard. He wrote in United States v. Bloom,55 “An employee deprives his employer of his honest services only if he misuses his position (or the information he obtained in it) for personal gain.” 56 Judge Easterbrook might have regarded Bloom’s “personal gain” requirement as a significant limitation, but a doctrine that would allow a dishonest employee to avoid conviction by saying, “Please pay the money to my sister,” could not last long. After Bloom, the Seventh Circuit changed the operative word from “personal” to “private.” 57 It explained, “By ‘private gain’ we simply mean illegitimate gain, which usually will go to the defendant, but need not.”58 In Ryan, an instruction told the jury to convict if the defendant “misus[ed] his official position . . . for private gain for himself or another.”59 It thus directed conviction if Ryan misused his official position to benefit any friend or political supporter. The Bloom standard found no favor outside the Seventh Circuit. 60 The First Circuit took an especially expansive view of honest services fraud, one that the government successfully urged the district court to approve in Ryan’s case. In United States v. Woodward61 and United States v. Sawyer,62 the First Circuit upheld the convictions of a legislator and a lobbyist who had lavishly entertained him. The well-entertained legislator had supported almost all of the lobbyist’s agenda. The court explained: A public official has an affirmative duty to disclose material information to the public employer . . . . When an official fails to disclose a personal interest in a matter over which she has decision-making power, the public is deprived of its right either to disinterested decision 149 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 1998). Id. at 656–57. 57 See United States v. Sorich, 523 F.3d 702, 707–08 (7th Cir. 2008). 58 Id. at 709. 59 See Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2 at A-000421, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 10-3964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (transcript of jury instructions). 60 See, e.g., United States v. Inzuna, 638 F.3d 1006, 1017–18 (9th Cir. 2009) (declining to follow Bloom); United States v. Welch, 327 F.3d 1081, 1107 (10th Cir. 2003) (declining “to become the first court [outside the Seventh Circuit] to embrace Bloom’s pleading requirements”); United States v. Panarella, 277 F.3d 678, 691–93 (3d Cir. 2001) (complaining that Judge Easterbrook’s opinion falsely described Seventh Circuit precedent and substituted one ambiguous standard for another). 61 149 F.3d 46 (1st Cir. 1998). 62 85 F.3d 713 (1st Cir. 1996). 55 56 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 23 making itself or, as the case may be, to full disclosure as to the official's potential motivation . . . .63 The court acknowledged that the entertainment it criminalized “may not be very different, except in degree, from routine cultivation of friendship in a lobbying context.”64 Punishing officials who have failed to disclose conflicts of interest may sound like a fine idea. When an official makes a decision despite a conflict of interest, shouldn’t he at least make the conflict known? But the idea’s appeal may fade as one examines it. The jury instructions in Ryan told the jury that it was unlawful for an official to fail to disclose “a material personal or financial interest, also known as a conflict of interest, in a matter over which he has decisionmaking power,”65 and they defined materiality as having “the natural tendency to influence or [being] capable of influencing [a] decision.”66 They thus defined a conflicting interest in the only way it can be defined— as any interest that might divert an official from faithful service to the public. When a public official’s decision will benefit a member of his family, he has a conflict of interest. When his decision will benefit a business partner or good friend, he again has a conflict. When his decision will benefit an important political supporter, he has a conflict. When his decision will benefit a lobbyist who has taken him on golf outings, he once more has a conflict. When this official’s action will benefit anyone at all who has done any favor for which he is grateful, he has a conflict of interest. Conflicts are ubiquitous. Show me a public official without conflicts of interest, and I will show you an official without any social life, work life, family life, religious life, or political life. No official could compile a list of all his conflicts, and, if he could, he would not know where to post it. How does one go about disclosing a conflict of interest to a disembodied public employer? Would a “my conflicts” section on the official’s Facebook page be sufficient? When no official ever has or ever could disclose every conflict, criminalizing undisclosed conflicts looks like a way to enable prosecutors to pick their targets.67 Campaign finance laws, gratuities prohibitions, and ethical Id. at 724 (internal citation omitted). Woodward, 149 F.3d at 55. 65 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000420 (jury instructions). 66 Id. 67 Cf. United States v. Kincaid-Chauncey, 556 F.3d 923, 949–50 (9th Cir. 2009) (Berzon, J., concurring) (“The conflict of interest theory, unhinged from an external disclosure standard, places too potent a tool in the hands of zealous prosecutors who may be guided by their own political motivations . . . [and who] might also feel political pressure to pursue certain state 63 64 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 24 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 codes forbidding the creation of some conflicts of interest offer a better way of minimizing corruption. 68 In Skilling, the Supreme Court would repudiate every lower court’s view of honest services fraud, but when George Ryan’s trial began on September 19, 2005, Skilling lay almost five years in the future. B. Indictment and Trial Prosecutors regard the mail fraud statute as “our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart.” 69 The trial of George Ryan shows why. An early section of the indictment in Ryan’s case was headed “Laws, Duties, Policies and Procedures Applicable to Defendant RYAN.”70 None of the laws and policies listed in this section were federal laws. They included provisions of the Illinois Constitution, Illinois criminal laws, non-criminal state regulations, a policy memorandum of the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, and George Ryan’s announced personal policy of not accepting gifts worth more than $50. An instruction in Ryan’s case declared that any violation of law by the defendant to produce private gain for himself or another established the central element of honest services fraud.71 Any law violation constituted the “misuse of office” required by Bloom. As interpreted in the Seventh Circuit, the mail fraud statute thus transformed minor state misdemeanors and non-criminal regulatory violations into federal felonies. The indictment alleged a single scheme to defraud that began when Ryan was elected Secretary of State and ended when he left the Governor’s office twelve years later.72 One hundred twenty-eight numbered paragraphs set forth the scheme. Paragraph after paragraph began with the words “[i]t was a further part of the scheme” and recited unattractive conduct.73 Ryan was said to have known that state facilities were being used for political purposes, to have been present when an associate told or local officials.”). Even when prosecutors are not partisan and are not subject to outside pressure, they are likely to view a governor in the same way a big game hunter views a cape buffalo. 68 See ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, CORRUPTION IN AMERICA: FROM BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S SNUFF BOX TO CITIZENS UNITED 284–87 (2014); Albert W. Alschuler, Criminal Corruption: Why Broad Definitions of Bribery Make Things Worse, 84 FORDHAM L. REV. 463, 484–85 (2015). 69 Jed S. Rakoff, The Federal Mail Fraud Statute (Part I), 18 DUQ. L. REV. 771, 771 (1980). 70 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1 at A-000068–71, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No.10-3964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (second superseding indictment). 71 Id. at A-000421 (jury instructions). 72 See id. at A-000075 (second superseding indictment). 73 Id. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 25 employees to “clean up” these facilities before an investigation, to have awarded low-digit license plates to campaign contributors, to have favored friends and benefactors in the award of government contracts, to have reassigned or dismissed employees investigating misconduct by drivers-license examiners, to have violated his personal pledge not to accept gifts worth more than $50, to have shared confidential information about the location of a new state prison with a friend who used this information to make a profit, and to have accepted a secret political consulting fee. Some of Ryan’s alleged misconduct would have violated criminal or civil regulations, and some would not.74 The trial judge rejected Ryan’s argument that the indictment alleged many schemes rather than one,75 and her judgment that everything done during Ryan’s time in office was part of one grand plot guided her in conducting the trial and receiving evidence. For four and one-half months of a trial that lasted almost six months, the government presented evidence to support its allegations.76 Then, at the end of the trial, the judge held that proving all the alleged aspects of the grand scheme was unnecessary. Formally, the act forbidden by the mail fraud statute is mailing. The Supreme Court has held that any mailing by anyone “incident to an essential part of the scheme” is sufficient.77 The mailer need not be the defendant or any of his confederates.78 Prosecutors generally can multiply the number of charges and convictions indefinitely. After setting forth 74 This list of charges might affect you in the same way it might have affected the jury. It might cause you to think poorly of George Ryan and make you care less about whether the courts treated him fairly. As you continue to read this Memoir, however, notice how many of the charges fade away. The district court held the evidence insufficient to support two mail fraud charges. See United States v. Warner, No. 02-CR-506, 2006 WL 2583722, at *12–13 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 7, 2006). The Seventh Circuit ultimately refused to review three more— apparently because at least one member of the panel doubted they could be sustained. The jury was not asked to make a yes-or-no judgment about most of the charges, and you will see how insubstantial the surviving charges are. George Ryan probably did not banish from his thoughts and actions the impulse to aid friends and supporters, but there is little reason to believe he took bribes or sacrificed the public interest. Of course George Ryan’s virtue or lack of it is irrelevant to the issues discussed in this Memoir. Few Americans excuse or minimize police brutality because its victims were lawbreakers themselves, and this Memoir is about Judge Easterbrook, not Governor Ryan. 75 See United States v. Warner, No. 02-CR-506, 2004 WL 1794476, at *21 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 11, 2004). 76 The presentation of evidence by Ryan and his co-defendant took less than one month. The remainder of the trial consisted of closing argument, jury instructions, and jury deliberations. 77 Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 710–11 (1989). 78 See id. at 707, 714–15 (holding that mailings by an unwitting car dealer were enough). Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 26 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 one scheme to defraud, the indictment presented nine mail-fraud charges. Each of these charges alleged a mailing in furtherance of the scheme. Although every mailing charged in the indictment was alleged to have furthered the grand scheme, it also allegedly furthered a small part of this scheme. One count concerned Ryan’s alleged sharing of confidential information concerning the new state prison. Another concerned his approval of a state lease of property from Harry Klein, who had hosted Ryan and his wife during a number of one-week stays at Klein’s vacation home in Jamaica. The other seven counts all concerned leases and contracts that benefited Ryan’s co-defendant Lawrence Warner. Warner was a long-time family friend and political supporter who had done favors for Ryan and members of his family. (I offer a list of Warner’s favors in a footnote.)79 The trial judge told the jury that finding any of these “included” schemes would be enough. The issue would be whether some of the dirt thrown at the wall had stuck. 80 79 Warner hosted two political fundraisers for Ryan, which raised $75,000 and $175,000. In McCormick v. United States, the Supreme Court held that campaign contributions may be treated as bribes only when “the payments are made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking by the official to perform or not to perform an official act.” 500 U.S. 257, 273 (1991). The government did not claim that Ryan made an explicit promise to Warner, and none of its evidence suggested that he did. But see United States v. Blagojevich, 794 F.3d 729, 735 (7th Cir. 2015) (Easterbrook, J.) (apparently rejecting the argument that McCormick requires an explicit quid pro quo while ignoring that decision’s explicit statement to the contrary). Warner, an insurance adjuster, adjusted an insurance claim for free after Ryan’s apartment flooded on Christmas Day. The two fundraisers and the insurance adjustment were the only benefits Warner provided to Ryan himself. But Warner did several favors for people close to Ryan. He adjusted an insurance claim for a Ryan son-in-law, shared lobbying fees with two people who were friends of Ryan, lent money to a business partly owned by Ryan’s brother, lent money to Ryan’s son’s cigar business, lent money to a Ryan son-in-law, and paid for the band at the wedding of one of Ryan’s daughters. I believe I’ve now listed everything. You can see why the government did not mention Warner’s supposed bribes in its tax charges. See supra Part II. If a friend adjusted an insurance claim for you, would you recognize the value of his services as income? If he lent $6,000 to your son’s cigar business, would you pay income taxes on the loan? If he gave your daughter a wedding present, would you report the value of the gift as income on your return? 80 Here’s the relevant instruction. See (a) whether you can make sense of it; and (b) whether you think my paraphrase is fair: Proof of several separate or independent schemes will not establish the single scheme alleged in Counts 2 through 10 unless one of the schemes which is proved is included within the single scheme alleged in those counts. If, therefore, you find beyond a reasonable doubt that there were two or more schemes to defraud and that the defendant was a member of one or more of these schemes to defraud, and you further find beyond a reasonable doubt that the proved scheme to defraud was included within the charged scheme to defraud, you should find that defendant guilty of the particular count you are considering, provided that all other elements of the mail fraud charge have been proved. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 27 The indictment’s allegations concerning the use of state facilities for political purposes, the cover-up of their political use, the award of lowdigit license plates to contributors, the re-assignment of employees investigating misconduct by license examiners, and the receipt of a secret political consulting fee were not the subject of specific mail-fraud charges. The jury had no opportunity to render a yes-or-no verdict on any of these allegations. American courts ordinarily exclude “other acts” evidence.81 This evidence is rejected because jurors should not be tempted to convict the defendant for being a bad person; they should judge the accusation of a particular wrongful act at a particular time.82 In separate trials of the schemes alleged in the individual mail fraud counts, evidence of the other little schemes would have been inadmissible. But evidence of the schemes on which the jury was not asked to render a verdict hovered over the jury’s deliberations. By throwing a mass of charges of unattractive conduct into a churning cauldron, prosecutors invited jurors to judge Ryan’s character rather than his guilt or innocence of particular charges. C. Jury Deliberations, Verdict, and Appeal Despite a conflict of interest instruction broad enough to convict almost anyone and a cauldron of disparaging evidence, the jury in Ryan’s case had difficulty reaching a verdict. After a week of deliberations, Juror Ezell sent the judge a note “complaining that other jurors were calling her derogatory names and shouting profanities.”83 The note was co-signed by the jury’s foreperson. The judge responded by directing the jurors to treat each other with respect.84 Two days later, a note signed by eight jurors asked whether Ezell could be removed from the jury because she was refusing to engage in meaningful deliberation. Again the judge advised the jurors to treat each other with respect. 85 If, on the other hand, you find that there were two or more schemes to defraud and that the defendant was not a member of any proved scheme included within the charged scheme to defraud, you should find that defendant not guilty of that count. Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000419–20. 81 See FED. R. EVID. 404(b). 82 See Edward J. Imwinkelreid, Undertaking the Task of Reforming the American Character Evidence Prohibition: The Importance of Getting the Experiment Off on the Right Foot, 22 FORDHAM URB. L.J. 285, 289–92 (1994). 83 See United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666, 675 (7th Cir. 2007). 84 Id. 85 See id. at 676. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 28 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Following Ryan’s conviction, Juror Peterson acknowledged that she had violated the court’s instructions by bringing a published article into the jury room and reading part of it aloud. The article declared that any juror unwilling to “meaningfully deliberate” could be removed from the panel.86 A few hours after the court’s second admonition of the need for respect, the Chicago Tribune reported to court officials that Juror Pavlick had given untruthful answers on his jury questionnaire by concealing two criminal convictions. The judge halted the jury’s deliberations, conducted an investigation, and removed Pavlick from the panel. 87 Further investigation by the Tribune and the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed that five other jurors and two alternates had given false responses on their questionnaires. One alternate had not revealed a D.U.I. conviction; another alternate and three sitting jurors, including Ezell, had not revealed arrests; and two jurors had not revealed that they had filed for bankruptcy.88 After questioning the suspected jurors individually, the judge dismissed Ezell and the alternate who had not disclosed his D.U.I. conviction. The judge concluded that the information withheld by the other five would not have warranted their exclusion from the jury for cause if this information had been known before trial. 89 No one was surprised when, after the reconstituted jury convicted Ryan, Ezell told the press that the result would have been different if she had remained on the panel.90 The jury that convicted Ryan included four jurors who might have feared prosecution for making false statements to the government and for perjury.91 These jurors had been subjected to interrogation by the judge in the presence of the lawyers. The judge said of one of the jurors who See id. at 677–78. See id. at 681. 88 See id. at 676. 89 See Warner, 498 F.3d at 666–67, 684–85. 90 See David Heinzmann & Richard Wronski, Different View, Different Result?: Disappointment and Frustration, CHI. TRIB. (April 18, 2006), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-04-18/news/0604180301_1_fellow-jurors-georgeryan-jury [http://perma.cc/C8H5-4CNZ]. 91 Before questioning the jurors, the trial judge asked counsel for their views on whether the jurors should be given the Miranda warnings. The chief prosecutor then consulted the U.S. Attorney and reported that his office would not use against the jurors any statements they made during the judge’s interrogation. The prosecutor did not, however, grant the jurors immunity from prosecution for the apparently false statements on their questionnaires, and the jurors were not advised of the limited immunity the prosecutor had afforded. See Warner, 498 F.3d at 708–09 (Kanne, J., dissenting). The jurors tried Ryan for an offense that several of them were suspected of committing themselves. Moreover, the jurors’ statements, unlike Ryan’s, were made under oath so that their false answers could have been prosecuted as perjury. See id. at 707. 86 87 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 29 remained on the panel, “Grilling Mr. Casino is one of the most distasteful things I have done in this job.”92 The jurors had seen a juror whom they knew to be pro-defense dismissed. The reconstituted jury had two new members and ten who already had deliberated for eight days. After the judge instructed them to disregard the prior deliberations and begin anew, they deliberated for ten days before convicting Ryan on all counts. 93 The trial judge set two of the jury’s mail fraud convictions aside. One concerned a lease upon which Lawrence Warner had received a commission, and the judge wrote, “[T]here is no evidence that Ryan steered this contract to Warner.”94 The other vacated conviction concerned Ryan’s disclosure of confidential information about the new state prison to a friend. The judge concluded that the government’s evidence was “equally consistent with the inference that the disclosure was inadvertent as it is with the inference that it was purposeful.” 95 The jurors’ conviction on counts for which the evidence was weak or nonexistent suggested that they might not have carefully analyzed the mail fraud charges one-by-one. The statements of some jurors and the prosecutor reinforced this impression. When a newspaper reporter asked which allegations had been most influential, Juror James Cwick replied, “There was a whole lot of stuff out there. You could pretty much take your pick.”96 He added, “Each box, each piece of evidence was a brick. . . . And if you put all the evidence together, it was a house.”97 Juror Kevin Rein explained, “It wasn’t a smoking gun. . . . [I] went into deliberations with a feeling something was probably not on the up-and-up—and after 5½ months [of trial] you have an idea.”98 Patrick Collins, the chief prosecuting attorney,99 told the press, “This case was tried witness by witness, piece of evidence by piece of evidence, and it was only by looking at the totality of Id. at 708. Id. at 706. 94 United States v. Warner, No. 02-CR-506, 2006 WL 2583722, at *12 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 7, 2006). 95 Id. at *13. 96 James Janega & Tom Rybarczyk, Small Details Painted Picture of Corruption, CHI. TRIB. (Apr. 18, 2006), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-04-18/news/0604180302_1_twojurors-deliberations-lawrence-warner [http://perma.cc/88V7-AWPJ]. 97 Susan Kuczka, Tom Rybarczyk & Ted Gregory, Inside the Ryan Jury Room: Cooped Up for Weeks, Strangers Became a Team, CHI. TRIB. (Apr. 19, 2006), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-04-19/news/0604190208_1_deliberations-jurorsgeorge-ryan [http://perma.cc/LT26-5H29]. 98 Janega & Rybarczyk, supra note 96. 99 And, I am proud to say, a former student of mine. 92 93 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 30 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 the case that the true picture could be shown to this jury.” 100 At the end of the trial, the wall looked muddy.101 The Seventh Circuit affirmed Ryan’s conviction.102 Most of Judge Diane Wood’s opinion for the court concerned the irregular jury deliberations. As the opinion drew to a close, however, it rejected Ryan’s argument that the honest-services statute was unconstitutionally vague and his argument that, even if valid, the statute did not criminalize undisclosed conflicts of interest and state-law violations.103 A dissenting opinion by Judge Michael Kanne focused on the improper jury deliberations.104 Judge Richard Posner and Judge Ann Williams joined Judge Kanne in dissenting from the Seventh Circuit’s denial of rehearing en banc.105 These judges jointly wrote an opinion declaring that “a cascade of errors” had 100 Matt O’Connor & Rudolph Bush, Ryan Guilty: A Juror’s View, CHI. TRIB. (Apr. 18, 2006), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-04-18/news/0604180306_1_probe-of-judicialcorruption-guilty-verdicts-ryan [http://perma.cc/Y2DX-5K5Y]. 101 The trial judge, however, dismissed the suggestion that the dirt might have influenced the jury. While the trial was underway, and before I became one of Ryan’s lawyers or had any communication with him or members of his defense team, I published a short article critical of the prosecution. See Albert W. Alschuler, The Mail Fraud & RICO Racket: Thoughts on the Trial of George Ryan, 9 GREEN BAG 2D 113, 113 (2006). After Skilling, the trial judge gently criticized my article as well as my later argument in her court: Four years ago, in writing about Ryan’s prosecution, Professor Alschuler (who was not then one of Ryan’s lawyers) asserted that “the mail fraud and RICO statutes unfairly stack the deck” in large part because the Government was allowed to present “every allegation of criminal and non-criminal misconduct by Ryan and Warner that prosecutors have collected,” and if “some of the dirt they have thrown as the wall has stuck, [the jury] is likely to find the defendants guilty of the principal charges against them.” . . . At oral argument on the motions before this court, Alschuler argued again that “[a]ll of this evidence went into one churning cauldron.” Skilling, however, did not invalidate the honest services mail fraud statute, nor did it invalidate RICO. Skilling limited prosecutions under these statutes to bribery and kickback schemes—the very theory of prosecution under which Ryan was convicted. . . . Ryan’s prosecution . . . . targeted conduct that remains at the core of honest services fraud. Ryan v. United States, 759 F. Supp. 2d 975, 980 (N.D. Ill. 2010). Neither the jurors nor the prosecutor seemed to see the trial in the same way before Skilling that the trial judge did afterwards. 102 United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666 (7th Cir. 2007). 103 See id. at 698–99. 104 See id. at 705 (Kanne, J., dissenting). Judge Kanne wrote, “I have no doubt that if this case had been a six-day trial, rather than a six-month trial, a mistrial would have been swiftly declared. It should have been here.” Id. at 715. 105 United States v. Warner, 506 F.3d 517, 518 (7th Cir. 2007) (Posner, Kanne, & Williams, JJ., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 31 rendered Ryan’s trial “a travesty.”106 The Supreme Court denied certiorari.107 On November 7, 2007, Ryan entered prison to begin serving his six-and-one-half year sentence.108 V. THE ROUTE BACK TO THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT A. The Supreme Court Decides Skilling Congress enacted the honest services statute in 1988, but the Supreme Court did not consider its meaning or constitutionality until twenty-one years later. In 2009, the Court heard arguments in two cases that presented issues under the statute.109 In one of these cases, Weyhrauch, I submitted an amicus curiae brief arguing for the standard the Court later adopted in Skilling.110 No party had proposed this standard, and no court had yet endorsed it. In the other case, Black, the defendant’s lawyer argued that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, but the government objected that he had not properly raised this question. 111 Skilling, which was argued three months later, did present the issue. When the Court decided Skilling in June 2010, three justices declared that they would hold the statute unconstitutionally vague,112 and the remaining justices acknowledged that the defendant’s “vagueness challenge has force.”113 The majority concluded, however, that the statute could be saved from a “vagueness shoal” by confining it to a “solid core” that every lower court had recognized.114 It declared, “[H]onest-services fraud does not encompass conduct more wide-ranging than the paradigmatic cases of bribes and kickbacks.”115 “[N]o other misconduct falls within [the statute’s] province.” 116 The Court not only rejected the Id. at 520. Warner v. United States, 553 U.S. 1064 (2008). 108 Catrin Einhorn, Ex-Gov. Ryan of Illinois Reports to Prison, N.Y. TIMES (Nov. 8, 2007), http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/us/08ryan.html?_r=0 [http://perma.cc/G3BSMD4E]. 109 Tr. of Oral Arg., Weyhrauch v. United States, 561 U.S. 476 (2010) (No. 08-1196), http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08-1196.pdf [http://perma.cc/ZQD2-MKF5]; Tr. of Oral Arg., Black v. United States, 561 U.S. 465 (2010) (No. 08-876), http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08876.pdf [http://perma.cc/4UWZ-VUVE]. 110 See Brief of Albert W. Alschuler as Amicus Curiae at 19–20, Weyhrauch v. United States, 561 U.S. 476 (2010) (No. 08-1196). Skilling quoted this brief. See Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 411 (2010). 111 Tr. of Oral Arg., Black v. United States, supra note 109, at 24–28. 112 See Skilling, 561 U.S. at 415 (Scalia, J., joined by Thomas and Kennedy, JJ., concurring). 113 Id. at 405 (majority opinion). 114 Id. at 407. 115 Id. at 411. 116 Id. at 412. 106 107 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 32 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 government’s argument that the statute criminalized failing to disclose a conflict of interest but also warned Congress that a statute embracing this standard might be held unconstitutional.117 B. Ryan Returns to the District Court The Winston & Strawn law firm in Chicago had represented Ryan at trial and on appeal without charge.118 The firm’s CEO, former governor James R. Thompson, was close to Ryan,119 and although the firm’s pro bono representation of a defendant without funds120 who faced complex, wideranging charges was in the best tradition of the legal profession, it brought Thompson and his firm considerable criticism.121 According to the press, representing Ryan cost Winston & Strawn $20 million in expenses and lawyers’ time.122 After Skilling, the defense team at Winston asked me to take the lead in representing Ryan in a post-conviction proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a statute that enables federal prisoners to obtain relief from unlawful Id. at 411 n.44. See Susan Chandler, Ryan a Pro Bono Problem, CHI. TRIB. (July 19, 2006), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-07-19/business/0607190154_1_winston-strawnillinois-governor-firm [http://perma.cc/C4ZA-CLYQ]. 119 Ryan had been Lieutenant Governor for eight of the fourteen years of the Thompson administration. Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, supra note 45. 120 Ryan’s only significant asset was the house in Kankakee he and his wife had purchased in 1965 for $34,000. See Jodi Wilgoren, Trial Shows Former Illinois Governor in Two Lights, N.Y. TIMES (Sept. 29, 2005), http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/29/us/trial-shows-formerillinois-governor-in-two-lights.html?_r=0 [http://perma.cc/L3UW-HKJQ]. This house still had its Formica countertops and avocado kitchen appliances. Ryan’s conviction caused the loss of his pension, including the portion he had earned before his alleged criminal conduct. See Ryan v. Bd. of Trs. of Gen. Assembly Ret. Sys., 924 N.E.2d 970, 975 (Ill. 2010). He did recover the $235,500 he had contributed to the pension fund over the years, and he did retain the pension payments he had received before his conviction. Ray Long, Ex-Gov. Ryan Denied Pension, CHI. TRIB. (Feb. 19, 2010), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-02-19/news/ctmet-george-ryan-pension-20100219_1_state-and-governor-ex-gov-pension [http://perma. cc/WJ7S-KSNP]. Ryan was seventy-three at the time he entered prison. Michael Conlon, Former Illinois Governor Ryan Enters Prison, REUTERS (Nov. 7, 2007), http://www.reuters. com/article/2007/11/07/us-illinois-governor-idUSN0754401620071107 [http://perma.cc/ 2M8G-JTEP]. 121 See, e.g., Eric Zorn, Ryan Comedown Takes Thompson Too, CHI. TRIB. (Nov. 8, 2007), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-11-08/news/0711071146_1 [http://perma.cc/ L9NG-W83V] (declaring that a “misguided display of loyalty has deeply tarnished Thompson’s legacy” and that “a new generation knows Thompson best as the chief defender and supporter of a man who personifies the cozy and crooked way politics is too often practiced in Illinois”). 122 Chandler, supra note 118; see also MERRINER, supra note 45, at 21. 117 118 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 33 confinement after their appeals have been concluded. 123 I readily agreed to do so.124 The jurors’ statements to the press indicated that they might not have paid close attention to the phrasing of particular instructions, but a federal rule of evidence would have made even an abject confession of disregarding the instructions inadmissible. 125 Any suggestion that jurors might not have followed their instructions to the letter seems to cause judges to bristle.126 But the presumption (or fiction) that the jury parsed the instructions with care and followed them perfectly gave Ryan a strong case. With rare exceptions, new rulings on issues of criminal procedure cannot be the basis for setting aside a conviction after the appellate process has been concluded. These rulings do not apply retroactively. 127 The Supreme Court has said, however, “New substantive rules generally apply retroactively. This includes decisions that narrow the scope of a criminal statute [i.e., decisions like Skilling] . . . . Such rules apply retroactively because they “necessarily carry a significant risk that a defendant stands convicted of ‘an act that the law does not make criminal.’”128 That the jury found Ryan guilty of noncriminal conduct was not merely a significant risk; it was a near certainty. Some instructions did invite the jury to convict Ryan if he took bribes (although Ryan contended that these instructions also directed conviction for things that were not bribes).129 The bribery instructions, however, did not stand alone. A 123 See 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (2012) (“A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States . . . may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.”). 124 I was surprised when the host of a Chicago talk radio program asked me about my fee, but I saw no reason not to answer the question. I advised the Winston team that, although I believed in the justice of Ryan’s case, I hesitated to devote the amount of time the case would require without compensation. I proposed to cut my customary fee of $500 per hour in half, noting that $250 per hour was less than the amount Winston billed for the work of a firstyear associate. Governor Thompson agreed to this proposal. I kept track of my hours and submitted statements, and, for a time, some friends of George Ryan paid these charges. I ultimately collected $25,000, all of it for services in the district court. By then, however, Ryan’s friends had done their share. My subsequent representation in the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court was pro bono. Although the Ryan family invited me to send them a bill at the conclusion of the case, I declined to do so. 125 See FED. R. EVID. 606(b). 126 See, e.g., Shannon v. United States, 512 U.S. 573, 585 (1994) (referring to “the almost invariable assumption of the law that jurors follow their instructions”). 127 See Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 310 (1989). 128 Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348, 351–52 (2004). 129 See Ryan v. United States, 759 F. Supp. 2d 975, 986–90 (N.D. Ill. 2010). In retrospect, although the bribery instructions were defective, raising the issue was a mistake. The judges of the Seventh Circuit have little patience for arguments that appear to be secondary, and Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 34 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 general instruction based on Bloom told the jury to convict if Ryan misused his office for private gain for himself or anyone else.130 Other instructions told the jury to convict if Ryan violated any of a number of Illinois laws to produce gain for himself or another.131 Finally, an instruction told the jury to convict if Ryan failed to disclose a material conflict of interest.132 If no one could tell which of the various grounds for conviction the jury had chosen, Ryan would have been entitled to a new trial under any of the possible standards of review.133 But Ryan’s case was much stronger than that. From before the trial began until it ended, Ryan’s case had a recurring theme. Ryan insisted that the government had no evidence of bribery, and the government insisted that it did not need any. Before jury selection began, the government exhibited some newspaper clippings to the court.134 These clippings quoted Ryan as saying, “[T]hey haven’t got one witness that said they gave me a corrupt dollar . . . .”135 The government asked the court to preclude the defense from arguing that corrupt dollars were necessary: “What is clearly improper would be for the defense to argue or suggest to the jury that ‘corrupt dollars’ for contracts or other specific quid pro quo evidence is a prerequisite to a finding of guilt on the particular mail fraud charges here.”136 “Specific quid pro quo evidence” is what defines bribery under federal law.137 Citing the First Circuit’s rulings in Sawyer and Woodward, the government declared, “Other circuits . . . have upheld public corruption prosecutions rooted in . . . the failure of a public official to disclose a financial interest or relationship affected by his official our claim that Ryan could be excused for failing to object to two of the bribery instructions led to some remarkable Easterbrook flimflam. See infra Part VII. 130 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000421 (jury instructions). 131 Id. 132 Id. at A-000420. 133 The appropriate standard was disputed. See infra Part IX.A. 134 See Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000163–67 (exhibits attached to United States Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions). 135 Id. at A-000163 (a photocopy of Ryan Confident He Will be Exonerated at Upcoming Trial, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, July 22, 2005). 136 Id. at A-000157 (United States Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions). 137 See United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers, 526 U.S. 398, 404–05 (1999) (“[F]or bribery there must be a quid pro quo—a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act.”); Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255, 268 (1992) (“[T]he offense is completed at the time when the public official receives a payment in return for his agreement to perform specific official acts.”); McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257, 273 (1991) (declaring that campaign contributions may be treated as bribes only when “the payments are made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking . . . to perform or not to perform an official act”); id. at 283 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (agreeing that “the crime does require a ‘quid pro quo’”). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 35 actions.”138 Although Ryan responded that the other circuits’ rulings did “not conform to the controlling Seventh Circuit law on honest services mail fraud as articulated in Bloom,”139 he lost. At trial, Ryan’s counsel cross-examined prosecution witnesses by asking such questions as: “[W]ere you ever aware of anybody ever giving any money to George Ryan to affect his decisions as secretary of state?” and “[D]id you ever observe or see George Ryan do anything that indicated to you that he had ever received any money or benefit from anyone to influence or affect his judgment?” Every witness answered “no.”140 Of the eighty-three witnesses the government called, none “testified that George Ryan took anything from anybody to perform his official acts.”141 Occasional passages of the government’s argument to the jury seemed to accuse Ryan of bribery. The prosecutor said that he “sold his office” and that he “might as well have put up a ‘for sale’ sign.” 142 He declared that the “type of corruption here” was like a meal plan or open bar.143 The prosecutor, however, did not refer to the bribery instructions even once and never asked the jury to convict on the basis of these instructions. Instead, he quoted the conflict of interest instruction in full and called it “the heart of the matter.”144 Ryan’s former chief-of-staff, Scott Fawell, testified that Ryan purported to pay for his Jamaican vacations by writing checks to his host and taking cash back. Fawell explained that the host, Harry Klein, owned currency exchanges regulated by Ryan’s office and that Ryan did not want Klein’s hospitality known.145 Of all the evidence the government presented over the course of Ryan’s lengthy trial, the “cash back” testimony seemed to me the most damaging.146 138 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000158 (United States’ Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions); see also supra notes 61–64 and accompanying text (describing the rulings in Sawyer and Woodward). 139 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000173 (Ryan’s Response to United States’ Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions). 140 See, e.g., Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000369, A-000371, A-000376, A-000377, A-000378, A-000380–81 (trial transcript). 141 Id. at A-000413 (closing argument of Ryan’s counsel). 142 Id. at A-000392 (closing argument of government counsel). 143 Id. at A-000396. 144 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000417. 145 See id. at A-000417 (trial transcript). 146 The chief prosecutor apparently took the same view. See MERRINER, supra note 45, at 174 (“[Patrick] Collins mentioned again what particularly seemed to stick in the craw of the U.S. attorney’s office, Ryan’s getting cash back from Harry Klein for his bogus checks for Jamaican vacations. ‘As a prosecutor, when you get somebody falsifying information, that’s your bread and butter to show the jury that they knew what they were doing is wrong.’”). Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 36 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Fawell’s testimony gave the government a strong case that Ryan had concealed a conflict of interest, and no one claimed the testimony showed more than that.147 Although the government emphasized Ryan’s approval of a lease of one of Klein’s properties, it argued only that the cash-back arrangement concealed “a classic conflict of interest,” not that it concealed a bribe: That’s what this instruction is about, folks. And that is the heart and soul not only of the South Holland [Klein] situation, but each and every Warner situation, because [of] that flow of benefits I talked to you about. George Ryan was operating under a conflict of interest every time he dealt with Larry Warner, because benefits were flowing from Larry Warner. He had a duty to disclose them . . . and he didn’t.148 The Supreme Court has said, “[F]or bribery there must be a quid pro quo—a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act.”149 The government acknowledged that it had not shown any quid pro quo: How did George Ryan reciprocate this longtime friendship [with Warner]? Government business is how he did it. . . . Was it a quid pro quo? No, it wasn’t. Have we proved a quid pro quo? No, [we] haven’t. Have we charged a quid pro quo? No, we haven’t. We have charged an undisclosed flow of benefits back and forth. And I am going to get to the instructions in a minute, folks, but that’s what we have charged. . . . We have charged an undisclosed flow of benefits, which, under the law, is sufficient . . . .150 147 Fawell was among the government witnesses who testified that he had never seen Ryan accept anything from anyone to influence or affect his judgment. See Separate App’x of Pet’rAppellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000368 (trial transcript). 148 Id. at A-000417–18. 149 United States v. Sun-Diamond Growers, 526 U.S 398, 404–05 (1999). 150 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000416. The government in fact conceded its failure to show a quid pro quo several times: [I]t’s important to remember that it is not necessary for us to prove a quid pro quo. I used that term before, I think. In other words that was I give you this, you give me that; it doesn’t have to be that sort of relationship. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 37 In the Seventh Circuit, Judge Kanne noted that Ryan’s case was “the most high profile case in Chicago in recent memory.” 151 My co-counsel and I recognized that media hostility and public opinion could affect even the august federal courts. On the merits, however, it was difficult to imagine a stronger case for post-conviction relief than Ryan’s. There was no reason for the jury ever to have considered whether Ryan took bribes. The instructions marked an easier path to conviction; the government had urged the jury to take this path; and there was no reason to doubt that the jury took it. When, however, our post-conviction petition returned the case to the judge who had presided over Ryan’s six-month trial, we lost.152 Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer’s fifty-eight page typescript opinion argued in essence that, because the only remaining charges against Ryan concerned his relationships with Lawrence Warner and Harry Klein, his convictions must have rested on the “stream of benefits” they gave him. Rejecting Ryan’s claim that the bribery instructions were defective, it said that the jury could not have convicted Ryan of receiving these benefits from Warner and Klein improperly without finding that they were bribes. The jury might indeed have found that Ryan failed to disclose a conflict of interest, but it could not have made this finding without concluding at the same time that he took bribes.153 The defense . . . has repeatedly attempted to focus you on corrupt payments of money or cash bribes, but that’s not the case that we have charged here. What the government’s case is about is that George Ryan received these financial benefits for himself and steered other benefits to third parties, benefits that were not disclosed to the public. Id. at A-000407. Now, did Ryan have a conversation with Anthony DeSantis in which they discussed: Well, you pay me for this, and I’ll give a low-digit plate? No, they didn’t do that. However, when Ryan had the opportunity to help DeSantis, a man who was interested in a low-digit plate, did he do it? Yes, he did. . . . You don’t have to have a quid-pro-quo conversation here. Id. at A-000400. 151 United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666, 705 (7th Cir. 2007) (Kanne, J., dissenting). 152 See Ryan v. United States, 759 F. Supp. 2d 975, 978 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (denying motion to vacate, set aside, or correct Ryan’s sentence). Dissenting from the Seventh Circuit’s earlier denial of rehearing en banc, Judges Posner, Kanne, and Williams wrote: Imagine how a district judge who has spent six months presiding at a trial . . . feels about the prospect of granting a mistrial and thus condemning herself . . . to the agony of trying the same case over again. . . . [C]an a defendant who moves for a mistrial at the end of a six-month trial hope for a fair shake? United States v. Warner, 506 F.3d 517, 524 (2007) (Posner, Kanne, & Williams, JJ., dissenting from the denial of rehearing en banc). 153 See Ryan, 759 F. Supp. 2d at 999. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 38 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 In our view, Judge Pallmeyer’s reasoning was fallacious. A rabbit went into the hat when she said that the jury must have convicted Ryan of receiving benefits improperly. Under the instructions, Ryan would have been obliged to disclose the conflicts of interest created by these benefits even if they were legitimate, unconditional gifts. What mattered under the instructions was not that the benefits were received as bribes but that the conflicts they created were undisclosed when Ryan later acted to benefit Warner and Klein. We expected to discuss the merits of Judge Pallmeyer’s ruling when we argued the case to the Seventh Circuit, but it was not to be. VI. THE ARGUMENT FROM HELL A. Judge Easterbrook Emerges In the Seventh Circuit, when a panel of judges has heard a defendant’s direct appeal from his conviction, that panel ordinarily hears any appeal growing out of a post-conviction proceeding brought by the same defendant.154 Judge Easterbrook was not a member of the panel that had heard Ryan’s direct appeal, and our post-Skilling appeal was assigned initially to the panel that had. This panel denied an emergency motion requesting Ryan’s release on bond or, in the alternative, an order transferring him to a facility near his home where he could be released during the day. Doctors had concluded that Lura Lynn Ryan, Ryan’s wife of fifty-five years and the mother of his six children, had only weeks to live, and the order would have enabled him to be by her bedside. 155 See UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT, PRACTITIONER’S HANDBOOK FOR APPEALS TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT 10 (2014), https://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/Rules/handbook.pdf [http://perma.cc/ AJ8L-GDZD] (“An exception to this procedure [of randomly assigning panels] occurs when a previously argued case is on the docket for a subsequent hearing. In this situation the original panel may be reconstituted to hear the second appeal.”); OPERATING PROCEDURES FOR THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT 110 (2015), https://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/Rules/rules.pdf [http://perma.cc/9MV4-PQSW] (“Briefs in a subsequent appeal in a case in which the court has heard an earlier appeal will be sent to the panel that heard the prior appeal . . . unless there is no overlap in the issues presented.”). Technically, our petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 began a new civil action challenging the legality of George Ryan’s imprisonment; it was not a part of the original criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, Collins T. Fitzpatrick, the Circuit Executive of the Seventh Circuit, confirmed that a panel that has heard a defendant’s direct appeal ordinarily hears any subsequent appeal from a ruling in a § 2255 proceeding brought by the same defendant. Telephone Interview with Collins T. Fitzpatrick (Mar. 24, 2015) [hereinafter Fitzpatrick Interview]. 155 See Sophia Tareen, Ex-Ill. Gov. George Ryan’s Wife Dies at Age 76, SEATTLE TIMES (June 29, 2011), http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/ex-ill-gov-george-ryans-wife-dies-atage-76/ [http://perma.cc/2HM4-6GUG]. 154 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 39 On the morning of my argument, the clerk’s office revealed that the panel had changed. It would include only one of the judges who had heard Ryan’s direct appeal—Diane Wood, a long-time colleague of mine on the University of Chicago Law School faculty and a former student. The other judges would be John Tinder and Frank Easterbrook, who was then Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit. Although Judge Easterbrook was also a long-time colleague on the Chicago faculty, his appearance on the panel did not come as a welcome surprise. In a later telephone interview, Collins T. Fitzpatrick, the Circuit Executive of the Seventh Circuit, confirmed that when a vacancy occurs in a previously selected panel, he selects a replacement without using a randomized process.156 Fitzpatrick Interview, supra note 154. Fitzpatrick also confirmed that Ryan’s bail motion would have been considered by the panel assigned to his case rather than by the court’s motions panel. Lawyers and scholars have questioned whether the assignment of judges to cases in the courts of appeals is as random as the courts say it is. See Adam S. Chilton & Marin K. Levy, Challenging the Randomness of Panel Assignment in the Federal Courts of Appeals 4 (Dec. 17, 2014); Sachs, supra note 1, at 1208 (noting that, after Rule 23(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure became effective, every one of the Seventh Circuit’s first seventeen opinions interpreting the rule was authored by either Judge Easterbrook or Judge Posner); Petition for a Writ of Certiorari at 33, Motorola Mobility LLC v. AU Optronics Corp., 135 S. Ct. 2837 (No. 14-1122) (“The Court Should Grant Review to Disapprove of the Seventh Circuit’s NonRandom Assignment Process”); J. Robert Brown, Jr. & Allison Herren Lee, Neutral Assignment of Judges at the Court of Appeals, 78 TEX. L. REV. 1037, 1041–42 (2000) (“[A]ll federal circuits purport to rely on the random assignment of judges to panels. In fact, however, substantial amounts of discretion erode the randomness of those systems.”). Cf. Dane Thorley, Randomness Pre-considered: Recognizing and Accounting for “De-Randomizing” Events When Utilizing Random Judicial Assignment (July 9, 2015), http://papers.ssrn.com/ sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2628782 [http://perma.cc/H7GF-4ZWD] (explaining why nominally random systems may not produce random assignments). Apart from cases in which earlier arguments have occurred, the Seventh Circuit claims to assign judges to panels randomly. See PRACTITIONER’S HANDBOOK, supra note 154, at 10. Judges, however, seem able to game the system. Fitzpatrick, the Circuit Executive, reported that he examines the briefs in every case, determines how much time to allow for argument, and prepares the argument calendar. After he circulates the calendar to the judges, the judges advise him of disqualifying conflicts of interest and of times they are unavailable to hear argument. After that, a computer randomly assigns the judges to panels. A judge who wishes to avoid a particular case apparently can do so by reporting his unavailability on the day argument is scheduled, and a judge who wishes to hear a particular case apparently can increase the chance of hearing it by reporting, “The only day I’m available that week is Friday.” I do not claim that Seventh Circuit judges steer cases to or from themselves by inventing scheduling conflicts; I merely note that they have the ability to do it. Fitzpatrick observes that judges are advised long in advance of the weeks when arguments will occur, that they are discouraged from scheduling other activities during these weeks, and that scheduling conflicts are in fact infrequent. When conflicts arise sufficiently in advance, moreover, judges typically advise Fitzpatrick of these conflicts before he prepares the argument calendar. Fitzpatrick Interview, supra note 154. 156 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 40 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Might Chief Judge Easterbrook have discouraged the judges initially assigned to the case from continuing with it? Might he have indicated that he was available as a replacement? Judge Easterbrook has written a surprisingly high proportion of the Seventh Circuit’s opinions in both mail fraud cases and cases presenting issues of post-conviction procedure. Perhaps our case interested him, and perhaps he saw it as a vehicle for making a point. B. I Get Hit by a Truck Before I reached the second sentence of my argument, Judge Easterbrook announced that the government, Judge Pallmeyer, and I had missed the boat entirely: Mr. Alschuler: Good morning and may it please the court. The jury instructions in this case marked four paths to conviction for honest services fraud, and three of them told the jury to convict for conduct that is not criminal. Judge Easterbrook: Mr. Alschuler, I am puzzled why we are talking about jury instructions in this case. Your brief proceeds as if this were a re-run of the direct appeal, but of course it isn’t. It’s a collateral attack and my understanding of the Supreme Court’s opinions in Davis and Bousley is that they don’t allow challenges to jury instructions— belated challenges to jury instructions. They allow the person in prison to argue that he has been convicted of something the law does not make criminal. In other words that on the evidence at trial in light of the later statutory interpretation the only proper judgment is a judgment of acquittal. But I don’t understand you to be arguing that on the evidence at trial the only proper judgment was a judgment of acquittal so I wonder what we have got here if anything. Mr. Alschuler: First, the government has not suggested that these issues are not properly before this court. I think it has waived any point based on the cases cited by the court and, second, it is a http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 41 constitutional violation—Section 2255 affords relief to anyone who is in prison in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States. Judge Easterbrook: Well, Mr. Alschuler do you disagree with what I have said, I believe, is the holding of Bousley and Davis? Mr. Alschuler: Well, I don’t recall the holding of Bousley and Davis, and they were not cited by the government and I— Judge Easterbrook: No, oddly—oddly they haven’t been. The argument you’re making is an argument that the Supreme Court rejected nine to nothing in United States v. Frady, which said that collateral attack absolutely cannot be used to challenge the jury instructions. Mr. Alschuler: Well, we are not simply challenging the jury instructions, Your Honor. Judge Easterbrook: No, you are challenging the rulings on evidence too. Mr. Alschuler: No, we are saying that George Ryan was convicted— Judge Easterbrook: Look, Mr. Alschuler, Mr. Alschuler: —in violation of the Constitution. Judge Easterbrook: Mr. Alschuler—Mr. Alschuler, trying to talk over a question from the bench won’t do you any good. The arguments that you are making look like the kind of arguments that the Supreme Court squarely said in Frady cannot be raised on collateral attack. Now, am I misunderstanding Frady? Mr. Alschuler: My recollection—I read Frady once upon a time and my recollection of the case is dim. We are saying that George Ryan was convicted in violation of the Constitution. It is— Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 42 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Judge Easterbrook: Right. I understand that. That’s what the D.C. Circuit held in Frady and which the Supreme Court reversed. Mr. Alschuler: No, the Supreme Court has said— Judge Easterbrook: It has said that incorrect jury instructions are not themselves a violation of the Constitution. They are a violation of a statute maybe but not of the Constitution. And the Supreme Court has said more often than I care to remember that just getting the law wrong does not entitle one to collateral attack. Mr. Alschuler: Again, we are suggesting more than that the District Court got the law wrong. The law is that if the jury instructions permitted conviction on the basis of an invalid theory—permitted conviction of somebody who may be innocent— then that is a constitutional violation. It is a violation— Judge Easterbrook: Okay, if that is your argument, it is inconsistent with both Frady and Engle v. Isaac. Now, if you have got an argument that your position is compatible with those cases, I’d love to hear it. Judge Wood: Which I think means if you are arguing in fact that going beyond details like jury instructions is this a situation where the record simply could not under any circumstance support finding that George Ryan has committed the offense that the Supreme Court has now recognized in Skilling. Maybe that is where you need to go.157 I then did as I was told. Abandoning my effort to explain why instructions directing conviction for noncriminal conduct differ from 157 Oral Argument at 0:28-4:50, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 103964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012), http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/ 2011/migrated.orig.10-3964_05_31_2011.mp3 [http://perma.cc/S247-27LF] [hereinafter Oral Argument]. All citations of the argument in this Memoir are to the recording on the Seventh Circuit website. An unofficial written transcript of the argument appears as Appendix H in Petition for a Writ of Certiorari at 186a–214a, Ryan v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (No. 11-499). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 43 other erroneous instructions, why they do violate the Constitution, and why they plainly are subject to challenge in post-conviction proceedings, I spent the remainder of my argument explaining why “the record simply could not under any circumstance support finding that George Ryan has committed the offense that the Supreme Court has now recognized in Skilling.” Judge Wood, however, did not invite me to argue the insufficiency of the evidence because she had any sympathy for this argument. She soon declared, “I don’t see why it was not entirely permissible for the jury to infer that there was an exchange going on.”158 At the conclusion of my argument, feeling like a law student who has totally botched his first moot court argument, I followed the textbook advice every first-year law student receives and requested permission to address the seemingly decisive cases in a supplemental brief.159 One can understand why instructions misstating the elements of a crime might seem at first glance to raise only a question of statutory construction, but a judge would have three ways of correcting this misunderstanding. First, he could recognize that the constitutional requirement of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt demands proof of guilt of a crime.160 Instructing a jury to convict someone of grand larceny upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he entered a store with a shopping bag would not satisfy the constitutional requirement. Second, the judge could look up the law. The Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit, and other courts have held in countless cases that directing conviction for noncriminal conduct violates the Constitution. Third, the judge could ask a question at argument and allow counsel to answer it. I cannot fully describe the jumble of thoughts that raced through my mind as I stood helpless at the podium before the onrushing truck. Among them were: What on earth is this man talking about? I’ve read dozens of cases in which the Supreme Court, the Seventh Circuit, and other courts have considered in post-conviction proceedings (i.e., in “collateral attacks”) whether Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 6:22. Id. at 16:19. 160 See United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995) (noting that the Constitution “require[s] criminal convictions to rest upon a jury determination that the defendant is guilty of every element of the crime with which he is charged, beyond a reasonable doubt”); Whalen v. United States, 445 U.S. 684, 690 (1980) (noting the “constitutional right to be deprived of liberty as punishment for criminal conduct only to the extent authorized by Congress”); In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970) (“[W]e explicitly hold that the Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.”). 158 159 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 44 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 erroneous instructions produced convictions for noncriminal conduct. What about all those cases after McNally? What about all those cases after other Supreme Court decisions narrowing the scope of criminal statutes? None of those cases said that the prisoner was limited to arguing the insufficiency of the evidence. Had I missed something? When the Supreme Court held that rulings narrowing the scope of criminal statutes apply retroactively because of the risk that a defendant might have been convicted of noncriminal conduct, what did it mean? Could it have meant anything other than that prisoners may object in post-conviction proceedings to instructions that produced their imprisonment for conduct that isn’t a crime? Why would it matter that the evidence was sufficient to convict the defendant of a genuine crime if the jury had in fact convicted him of something else? Didn’t Skilling itself say that allowing a jury to convict for noncriminal conduct violates the Constitution? I have a dim recollection of Bousley, Davis, Frady, and Engle v. Isaac, but weren’t those cases about the defendants’ procedural defaults—their failures to make objections at the right time? I guess they weren’t. There was no procedural default in our case, and Judge Easterbrook says the cases are about what issues are cognizable in post-conviction proceedings. Should I say something about procedural default? This can’t be happening. Research after the argument quickly transformed my panic and confusion to indignation. All of Judge Easterbrook’s overbearing assertions were false. Falsehood Number One: Davis and Bousley . . . don’t allow challenges to jury instructions—belated challenges to jury instructions. They allow the person in prison to argue that he has been convicted of something the law does not make criminal. In other words that on the evidence at trial in light of the later statutory interpretation the only proper judgment is a judgment of acquittal.161 161 Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 1:03–1:27. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 45 There is nothing in either of the opinions cited by Judge Easterbrook that a rational reader could construe or misconstrue as precluding challenges to jury instructions in post-conviction proceedings. Neither case involved or mentioned jury instructions at all. In Bousley v. United States, 162 a prisoner pleaded guilty to using a firearm during a drug transaction. The Supreme Court later held in Bailey v. United States163 that “use” required active employment of the firearm. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s opinion for the Supreme Court included two holdings. The Court first held that Bailey applied retroactively. The prisoner’s claim could be heard in a § 2255 proceeding because “decisions of this Court holding that a substantive federal statute does not reach certain conduct . . . necessarily carry a significant risk that a defendant stands convicted of ‘an act that the law does not make criminal.’”164 The Court then considered the significance of the prisoner’s procedural default. He had not argued at trial or on appeal that “use” meant active use. Instead, he had pleaded guilty. Such a procedural default ordinarily precludes post-conviction relief, but the Court held that one of two recognized exceptions to the procedural default rule might apply. If the prisoner could show that “the constitutional error” in his case (note those words) had “probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent,” the procedural default would be excused.165 Unlike the prisoner in Bousley, Ryan had argued at trial and on appeal that the honest services statute did not reach the conduct that the Supreme Court later held it did not reach. The government had never suggested a default of his claim that the statute did not reach undisclosed conflicts or state regulatory violations. The procedural default ruling in Bousley did not bear at all on whether a prisoner who has not defaulted may challenge jury instructions directing his conviction for noncriminal conduct. (Indeed, Bousley did not require even a prisoner who had defaulted to show that “on the evidence at trial in light of the later statutory interpretation the only proper judgment is a judgment of acquittal.” Probable conviction of one who was actually innocent was enough to excuse the default.) How anyone could read Bousley as saying that Ryan could not challenge the jury instructions in his case and could argue only the insufficiency of the evidence is beyond me. 523 U.S. 614 (1998). 516 U.S. 137 (1995). 164 Id. at 620 (quoting Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 334 (1974)). 165 Id. at 623. The Supreme Court also excuses a default when a prisoner can show “cause” for his default and “actual prejudice” resulting from the asserted error. See United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 167 (1982); Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 84 (1977). 162 163 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 46 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Judge Easterbrook mentioned Davis in the same breath as Bousley, and my first guess was that Davis was a “procedural default” case too. But I was thinking of the Davis v. United States that appears in volume 411 of the United States Reports.166 That Davis is in fact a procedural default case arising under § 2255. At the end of the argument, however, when Judge Easterbrook agreed that the parties could file supplemental briefs, he revealed that he had in mind a different Davis v. United States—one that also arose under § 2255 and that the Supreme Court decided a year later. This Davis appears in volume 417 of the United States Reports.167 In the Davis case Judge Easterbrook had in mind, the prisoner was serving a sentence for failing to report for induction into the armed forces when a ruling by the Ninth Circuit in another defendant’s case made clear that the order requiring him to report was invalid. The prisoner had consistently maintained that the order in his case was invalid; he had not defaulted this claim. The government nevertheless maintained that the prisoner was not entitled to relief under § 2255 because his claim was “not of constitutional dimension.”168 Without considering whether the prisoner’s claim was of constitutional dimension, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. 169 The Court noted that § 2255 authorizes relief when a sentence was imposed “in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States,”170 and it held that Davis was entitled to relief even if the error in his case was nonconstitutional. If the order requiring him to report was invalid, his “conviction and punishment are for an act that the law does not make criminal. There can be no room for doubt that such a circumstance inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.”171 Not a word of Davis suggests that instructions directing conviction for noncriminal conduct cannot be considered in post-conviction proceedings. Not a word suggests that prisoners are limited to arguing the insufficiency of the evidence to support their convictions under an appropriate standard. Falsehood Number Two: Although Judge Easterbrook initially invoked Bousley and Davis, he soon began talking about Frady and Engle v. Isaac. Davis v. United States, 411 U.S. 233 (1973). Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333 (1974). I knew that Judge Easterbrook did not have in mind the Davis v. United States that appears in volume 512 of the United States Reports or the Davis v. United States that appears in volume 160. See Davis v. United States, 512 U.S. 452 (1994); Davis v. United States, 160 U.S. 469 (1895). 168 Davis, 417 U.S. at 342. 169 See id. at 341–42 (“The sole issue before the Court in the present posture of this case is the propriety of the Court of Appeals’ judgment that a change in the law of that Circuit after the petitioner’s conviction may not be successfully asserted by him in a § 2255 proceeding.”). 170 Id. at 342–43 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255) (emphasis added by the Court). 171 Id. at 346. 166 167 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 47 The judge declared, “The argument that you’re making is an argument that the Supreme Court rejected nine to nothing in United States v. Frady which said that collateral attack absolutely cannot be used to challenge the jury instructions.” When I stubbornly persisted, “[W]e are saying that George Ryan was convicted . . . in violation of the Constitution,” Judge Easterbrook replied, “Right. I understand that. That’s what the D.C. Circuit held in Frady and which the Supreme Court reversed. . . . It has said that incorrect jury instructions are not themselves a violation of the Constitution. They are a violation of a statute maybe but not of the Constitution.”172 And when I still insisted, “The law is that if the jury instructions permitted conviction of the basis of an invalid theory— permitted conviction of somebody who may be innocent—then that is a Constitutional violation,” he answered, “Okay, if that is your argument, it is inconsistent with both Frady and Engle v. Isaac. Now, if you have got an argument that your position is compatible with those cases, I’d love to hear it.”173 Judge Easterbrook appeared to know United States v. Frady174 very well. He recalled the Supreme Court’s vote (nine to nothing) and which court the Supreme Court reversed (the D.C. Circuit). Apparently the D.C. Circuit had said just what I was saying—that directing conviction for noncriminal conduct violated the Constitution—but it had been unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had declared both that invalid jury instructions “are not themselves a violation of the Constitution” and that “collateral attack absolutely cannot be used to challenge the jury instructions.”175 Judge Easterbrook seemed so familiar with Frady and was so sure of his position that I did not think he could be wrong. But he was—strangely and totally wrong. Unlike Bousley and Davis, Frady did concern jury instructions. A prisoner alleged in a § 2255 proceeding that the instructions at his murder trial improperly directed the jury to presume malice.176 The difficulty was that the prisoner had not presented this claim at trial; like the prisoner in Bousley, he had defaulted. The D.C. Circuit held that the prisoner’s default could be excused because the instructional error was plain, but the Supreme Court reversed. It held that the standard for excusing procedural default in a § 2255 proceeding is not “plain error.” Instead, the 172 173 174 175 176 Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 2:17–3:35. Id. at 3:50–4:21. 456 U.S. 152 (1982). Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 2:21. Frady, 456 U.S. at 157–58. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 48 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 prisoner must show “cause” for his default and “actual prejudice” resulting from the error.177 That was all there was to Frady. The Court did not indicate that it would have had any difficulty at all considering the prisoner’s claim if his default could have been excused or if, like Ryan, he had never defaulted. It did not say or in any way hint that invalid “jury instructions are not themselves a violation of the Constitution” and “that collateral attack absolutely cannot be used to challenge the jury instructions.” 178 (Incidentally, the vote in Frady was not nine to nothing. Only five justices joined the majority opinion.179 Judge Easterbrook gets almost nothing right.) Engle v. Isaac180 was similar. A state prisoner alleged in a federal habeas corpus proceeding that jury instructions had improperly imposed on him the burden of establishing his claim of self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the prisoner had stated “a colorable constitutional claim”181 but held that he had defaulted by failing to challenge the allegedly erroneous instructions at trial. Moreover, this prisoner had not established “cause” for his default. Nothing in Engle v. Isaac remotely suggested that instructions directing conviction for noncriminal conduct do not violate the Constitution or that prisoners may not challenge these instructions in § 2255 proceedings. In fact, the Supreme Court has clearly and repeatedly held that instructions directing conviction for noncriminal conduct do violate the Constitution and may be considered in post-conviction proceedings.182 See id. at 167–68. Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 2:15–3:26 179 Justice Blackman concurred in the result; Justice Brennan dissented; and Chief Justice Burger and Justice Marshall did not participate. 180 456 U.S. 107 (1982). 181 Id. at 122. 182 For example, in O’Neal v. McAninch, a prisoner claimed in a federal habeas corpus proceeding that confusing jury instructions might have led to his conviction without the state of mind required by an Ohio statute. 513 U.S. 432, 432–33 (1995). The Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit’s denial of relief because that court had required the prisoner to assume the burden of showing that the instructional error was prejudicial. Id. at 435–36. The proper harmless error standard, the Court said, was whether there was “grave doubt” about whether the error was injurious. Id. at 436. Middleton v. McNeil was a federal habeas corpus proceeding in which three jury instructions had correctly stated the California doctrine of “imperfect self defense” while a fourth misstated it. 541 U.S. 433, 438 (2004). The Supreme Court noted that the prisoner had a constitutional right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every element of the offense charged and that instructions misstating a state’s substantive criminal law could violate that right. Id. at 437. After reviewing the record, however, it held that there was no “reasonable 177 178 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 49 Judge Easterbrook is the kind of judge who cites twenty- and thirtyfive-year-old cases that neither party mentioned, and even after a lawyer has conceded that he is unprepared to discuss these cases, he demands to know “if you have got an argument that your position is compatible with those cases.”183 Additionally, he asks questions that he refuses to allow a lawyer to answer and then declares, “Mr. Alschuler, trying to talk over a question from the bench won’t do you any good.”184 What is worse, Judge Easterbrook’s bullying rests on stuff he just makes up. The truth is not in him. When I returned to the counsel table, the argument in Ryan was not over. Judge Easterbrook was about to demonstrate that he is an equalopportunity bully. C. The Government Gets Hit by the Truck Here’s how the government’s argument began: Ms. Barsella: May it please the court. I’ll begin by just saying that the government did not make a specific reference at all to the issue that Judge Easterbrook brought up, and we do apologize for that. Obviously any forfeiture on our part does not bind the court and, if the court does want to likelihood” that the jury had applied the instructions in a way that violated the Constitution. Id. at 437–38. In Hedgpeth v. Pulido, a federal habeas corpus petitioner claimed that a misstatement of California law permitted his felony murder conviction even if he joined the felony after the murder had been committed. 555 U.S. 57, 59 (2008). A federal district court agreed, holding that the constitutional error was not harmless. Id. Although the Ninth Circuit affirmed, it declared that there was no need even to inquire whether the error was harmless because the error was “structural.” Id. at 59–60. The Supreme Court concluded that the error was not structural and was subject to harmless error review. Id. at 62. In Waddington v. Sarausad, the Supreme Court once more resolved a claim on federal habeas corpus that a misstatement of state criminal law violated the Constitution by directing conviction for noncriminal conduct. 555 U.S. 179, 191 (2009). It held that there was no “‘reasonable likelihood’ that the jury applied the instruction in a way that relieved the State of its burden of proving every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id.; see also Henderson v. Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145, 147 (1977); Buggs v. United States, 153 F.3d 439, 444 (7th Cir. 1998) (Because “this court has stated numerous times that a conviction for engaging in conduct that the law does not make criminal is a denial of due process,” a preBailey instructional error “had consequences of constitutional magnitude . . . [and] is cognizable on collateral review.”). 183 Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 4:14. 184 Id. at 2:44. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 50 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 have additional briefing on those points, we will be happy to submit them. Judge Easterbrook: Ms. Barsella, I have a question not only about this subject which the government seems quite mysteriously to have forfeited, and it is very strange because this is a subject that was important enough to the United States that the Solicitor General took it to the Supreme Court in Frady, and now, the United States having won Frady, the U.S. Attorney in Northern Illinois just ignores it. But I don’t understand why we are here at all. This petition was filed more than two years after Ryan’s conviction became final and appears to be untimely. But with respect to that issue it seems like the United States has not forfeited. The United States has waived, and I don’t get it. 2255(f)(3) says that the time restarts if the Supreme Court makes a new decision and “if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” What decision of the Supreme Court has made Skilling retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review? Ms. Barsella: I believe below we did look at that issue, and it was determined that when a statute is now newly interpreted so as to make one interpretation no longer law that we believe that (f)(3) did allow the 2255— Judge Easterbrook: But that’s not what the statute says. The statute says that the decision has to be made “retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” Now what you seem to have thought, and I won’t press this further because this is something the government—untimeliness is an affirmative defense which seems to have been waived. What you seem to be thinking here is that, if you’re confident that the Supreme Court will declare it retroactive, then we just don’t bother with details like the Supreme Court http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 51 actually declaring it retroactive. And that is certainly not how this court has interpreted 2255(f)(3) in the past. Ms. Barsella: I do apologize for the fact that we misinterpreted that. We thought that in light— Judge Easterbrook: Did you misinterpret it, or is this just a Department of Justice wide position? Ms. Barsella: No, it isn’t. When we analyzed this below in the District Court, we were satisfied he could raise it in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Skilling, and we were obviously mistaken.185 Falsehood Number Three: “[T]hat is certainly not how this court has interpreted § 2255(f)(3) in the past.”186 The government was not mistaken. Ryan’s petition was timely. A Seventh Circuit decision was directly on point, and it said just what Ms. Barsella said it did. This decision had been written by Judge Easterbrook. His confident assertions were flatly inconsistent with one of his own opinions. A federal statute permits a prisoner who has never before filed a federal post-conviction petition to file such a petition within a year of a Supreme Court decision recognizing a new right if this right has been “made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” 187 When the prisoner has previously filed a federal post-conviction petition, however, it is not enough that a new right has been “made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.” Rather, to file a second, third, or fourth petition, “a new rule of constitutional law” must have been “made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court.”188 Judge Easterbrook’s opinion for the Seventh Circuit in Ashley v. United States189 italicized the words by the Supreme Court just as I have. The court held that, although a prisoner who files a second post-conviction petition must show that a new rule of constitutional law has been made retroactive by the Supreme Court, a prisoner filing a first petition need not.190 “To treat Id. at 16:51–19:45. Id. at 19:12. 187 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3) (2012). 188 Id. § 2255(h)(2) (emphasis added). 189 266 F.3d 671 (7th Cir. 2001). 190 See id. at 673 (“[A]n initial petition may be filed within a year of a decision that is ‘made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review[.]’ A second petition, by contrast, 185 186 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 52 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 the first formulation as identical to the second is not faithful to the difference in language. . . . District and appellate courts, no less than the Supreme Court, may issue opinions ‘holding’ that a decision applies retroactively to cases on collateral review.” 191 Moreover, a district court may make its determination of retroactivity in the same proceeding in which it considers whether a prisoner is entitled to relief. 192 Ryan’s postconviction petition was his first (and only) petition. It clearly was timely.193 Judge Easterbrook berated the government for overlooking two apparently dead-bang winning arguments. It was “odd,”194 “strange,”195 and “mysterious”196 that it had mentioned neither Frady nor the statute of limitations. On both points, he reduced the government’s apparently bungling counsel to abject apology. And on both points, Judge Easterbrook had made up the law, had seen no need to check the authorities on which he relied, had assumed the incompetence of the lawyers on both sides (and of the district judge), and had gotten every proposition wrong. As the argument proceeded, Judge Easterbrook continued to browbeat the government’s lawyer: “Why are you back to arguing harmless error? That’s the approach that both Engle v. Isaac and Frady expressly reject.”197 “You’re contradicting Frady again, but go ahead.”198 Then it was time for my rebuttal. Despite the court’s direction to address only the sufficiency of the evidence, I decided to give our principal argument one last shot. During the badgering of Ms. Barsella, I had paged through our brief and found the place where it quoted a statement of Skilling that was clearly inconsistent with Judge Easterbrook’s bluster. I began my rebuttal by reading this sentence to the court: “Skilling says that ‘Constitutional error occurs when a jury is depends on ‘a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court.’”). 191 Id. 192 See id. at 673–74 (explaining that “[j]ust as a district court possesses jurisdiction to determine its own jurisdiction, it must possess the authority to determine a precondition to the timeliness of an action”). 193 An early draft of our brief for the Seventh Circuit included a footnote that cited Ashley and explained why Ryan’s petition was timely. When we sought permission to file a brief of 20,000 words, however, declaring that fewer words would not allow us to present Ryan’s case adequately, the Court allowed us a brief of 17,000 words. We then eliminated the footnote on timeliness along with other explanatory material that might have been helpful to the court but that did not bear on any contested issue. 194 Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 2:16. 195 Id. at 17:25. 196 Id. at 17:30. 197 Id. at 20:18. 198 Id. at 21:54. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 53 instructed on alternative theories of guilt and returns a verdict that may rest on an invalid theory.’” 199 I will not soon forget the look of contempt on Judge Easterbrook’s face as I read this sentence. VII. JUDGE EASTERBROOK OPINES A. Concocting Something Else: A Fantasy Forfeiture The prosecutors and Ryan’s lawyers submitted their supplemental briefs to the Seventh Circuit at the same time. Ours concluded: The parties have fairly and responsibly briefed and argued this case, focusing on the sorts of instructional issues that this Court and others have addressed in countless post-conviction proceedings. The Court should decide this case on the basis of the issues they have presented. Instructions that direct conviction without proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conduct that the legislature has made criminal violate the Constitution, and allegations of this sort are cognizable in section 2255 proceedings. The “cause and prejudice” standard has no application to non-defaulted objections. When instructions have directed conviction for noncriminal conduct and the petitioner has not defaulted his objections, the question before a habeas corpus court is whether the instructional error was harmless. 200 Disregarding our plea to decide the case on the basis of the issues submitted by the parties, Judge Easterbrook invented a new ground of decision—one that not only had not been advanced by the parties but that neither he nor anyone else had mentioned during argument. Judge Easterbrook’s opinion for the Seventh Circuit concluded that Ryan had defaulted his objection to the undisclosed-conflicts instruction and the state-law instruction.201 Ryan, however, had objected to these instructions at trial and on appeal.202 The Seventh Circuit had considered his arguments and had Id. at 32:34 (quoting Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 414 (2010) (emphasis added)). Supplemental Memorandum of Pet’r-Appellant George H. Ryan at 29–30, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 10-3964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 201 See Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 915 (7th Cir. 2011), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 202 See, e.g., Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000174-A000183 (Ryan’s Response to United States’ Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions); 199 200 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 54 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 upheld the challenged instructions.203 The government had not claimed any default. Indeed, its supplemental brief declared, “[I]n the government’s view, Ryan has not procedurally defaulted his claim that he was convicted for conduct that is not a crime.”204 It added, “In order to obtain review of his claim in a § 2255 proceeding, Ryan does not have to establish ‘cause’ because his claim was not defaulted.”205 The government did maintain, however, that Ryan had failed to object to two of the instructions he said defined bribery incorrectly. Judge Easterbrook’s opinion did not mention Ryan’s objections to the improper instructions and did not mention the government’s express concession that there was no default. The opinion described Ryan’s supposed default this way: [Ryan] never made the argument that prevailed in Skilling: that § 1346 is limited to bribery and kickback schemes. . . . The forfeiture as we see it is that Ryan never made in the district court or on appeal an argument that § 1346 is best understood to be significantly more limited than Bloom held. . . . [W]hile Ryan’s lawyers proposed instructions based on Bloom—which was more favorable to defendants than the law in some other circuits— Skilling’s lawyers contended that § 1346 is much narrower if not unconstitutionally vague. Skilling asked the Supreme Court to disapprove Bloom. That Court ruled in his favor. If Ryan’s lawyers had done what Skilling’s lawyers did, the controlling decision today might be Ryan rather than Skilling. (Ryan’s petition for certiorari beat Skilling’s to the Supreme Court.) Nothing prevented Ryan from making the arguments that Skilling did. Many other defendants in this circuit contended that Bloom was wrongly decided. Conrad Black was among them. . . . The Supreme Court heard Black’s case along with Skilling’s. . . . Because Black had preserved an objection to Bloom’s understanding of Consolidated Brief and Required Short App’x of the Defendants-Appellants Lawrence E. Warner and George H. Ryan, Sr. at 61, United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666 (7th Cir. 2007) (Nos. 06-3517 & 06-3528). 203 See United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666, 698–99 (7th Cir. 2007). 204 Government’s Supplemental Memorandum at 6, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 10-3964), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 205 Id. at 7 (emphasis removed). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 55 § 1346, we inquired on remand from the Supreme Court whether the errors were harmless.206 Falsehood Number Four: “Skilling asked the Supreme Court to disapprove Bloom. That Court ruled in his favor. . . . Nothing prevented Ryan from making the arguments that Skilling did. Many other defendants in this circuit contended that Bloom was wrongly decided. Conrad Black was among them.” 207 206 Ryan, 645 F.3d at 915–16. Although this passage includes everything the Seventh Circuit said about Ryan’s asserted default, the ellipses in the passage mark substantial omissions. Interspersed with the court’s description of the supposed default was its discussion of whether this default could be excused. Judge Easterbrook wrote, “Ryan sees ‘cause’ in this circuit’s pre-Skilling law.” Id. at 915. He did not reveal, however, that Ryan had mentioned “cause” only in response to the government’s argument that he had waived or forfeited his objection to two bribery instructions. The opinion made it seem that Ryan had acknowledged his failure to object to any of the invalid instructions, including the undisclosed-conflicts instruction. Judge Easterbrook’s deception on this point probably was deliberate. After reading our supplemental brief and the government’s, he certainly knew that Ryan had objected throughout the proceedings to the undisclosed-conflicts instruction. Without mentioning Ryan’s objections or the government’s concession that there had been no default, he spoke only of Ryan’s argument that the default could be excused. And he did that by transposing an argument for excusing a lack of objection to two bribery instructions into an argument for excusing a larger default that the parties agreed had not happened. Judge Easterbrook misled his readers again when he described the content of Ryan’s argument concerning “cause” (the argument Ryan made to excuse his failure to object to the two bribery instructions). According to Judge Easterbrook, Ryan maintained that “cause” existed simply because it would have been “pointless” to challenge Bloom in the Seventh Circuit. Id. at 916–17. Judge Easterbrook responded that it would not have been pointless and, more importantly, “[t]hat the argument seems likely to fail is not ‘cause’ for its omission.” Id. at 916. Ryan, however, had made no such argument. In language Judge Easterbrook quoted, the Supreme Court has said that, although the “futility” of an argument is not “cause” for failing to make it, “cause” does exist when a claim “is so novel that its legal basis is not reasonably available to counsel.” Id. at 916–17 (quoting Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 622–23 (1998)). In language Judge Easterbrook did not quote, the Supreme Court has also said that “cause” exists when the Court has issued a decision “‘overturn[ing] a longstanding and widespread practice to which [the Court] has not spoken, but which a near-unanimous body of lower court authority has expressly approved.’” Reed v. Ross, 468 U.S. 1, 17 (1984). Ryan observed that in the twenty-two years between the enactment of the honest services statute and Skilling, no court had endorsed a construction limiting this statute to bribery and kickback schemes. Reply Brief of Pet’r-Appellant at 19–20, Ryan v. United States, vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (2011) (No. 10-3964). He noted that, after McNally, which similarly departed from uniform lower court precedent, the Seventh Circuit and other courts had excused the procedural defaults of § 2255 petitioners. See id. (citing, e.g., Bateman v. United States, 875 F.2d 1304, 1308 (7th Cir. 1989)). Ryan asked the court to approve a recent district court ruling that “Skilling represents just the sort of ‘clear break with the past’ that the United States Supreme Court contemplated as giving rise to ‘cause.’” See id. (citing Stayton v. United States, 766 F. Supp. 2d 1260, 1266 (M.D. Ala. 2011)). 207 See Ryan, 645 F.3d at 916. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 56 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Jeffery Skilling did not ask the Supreme Court to disapprove Bloom. To the contrary, in both the Supreme Court and the Fifth Circuit, he cited Bloom in support of his arguments. 208 Similarly, Conrad Black never contended that Bloom was wrongly decided. His briefs in the Supreme Court did not mention the case.209 In the Seventh Circuit, he cited Bloom frequently—but only in support of his arguments. 210 Perhaps “[m]any other defendants in [the Seventh] circuit contended that Bloom was wrongly decided,” but my research has not revealed even one. Judge Easterbrook must have known after reading our supplemental brief and the government’s that Ryan had objected throughout the proceedings to the undisclosed-conflicts and other invalid instructions. A forthright judge would have acknowledged Ryan’s objections and, if he thought these objections inadequate, explained why. Judge Easterbrook’s discussion implied, however, that Ryan had not made the proper objection. Just what the proper objection would have been was unclear, but it apparently would have been either “overrule Bloom” or “limit honestservices fraud to bribery and kickback schemes.” Judge Easterbrook did not explain why Ryan should have said either of these things. Although the judge apparently regarded Ryan’s argument as inconsistent with Bloom, Bloom had said nothing about undisclosed conflicts.211 It had merely held that “an employee deprives his employer of his honest service . . . if he misuses his position . . . for personal gain,”212 and the idea that an official “misuses his position” whenever he fails to disclose any past favor that is “capable of influencing” one of his 208 See Reply Brief for Pet’r at 21, Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358 (2010) (No. 08-1394); Brief of Defendant-Appellant Jeffrey K. Skilling at 65, United States v. Skilling, 554 F.3d 529 (5th Cir. 2009) (No. 06-20885). 209 See Brief for the Pet’rs, Black v. United States, 561 U.S. 465 (2010) (No. 08-876). 210 See Opening Brief of Defendants-Appellants at 47, 51–52, 55, 86, United States v. Black, 530 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 2008) (Nos. 07-4080, 08-1030, 08-1072, 08-1106). 211 Recall the phrasing of the government’s pretrial argument: “Other circuits . . . have upheld public corruption prosecutions rooted in . . . the failure of a public official to disclose a financial interest or relationship affected by his official actions.” Separate App’x of Pet’rAppellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000158 (United States’ Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions Related to Mail Fraud Allegations) (emphasis added). Even the government did not claim that Bloom had criminalized undisclosed conflicts. Judge Easterbrook remarked that Bloom “was more favorable to defendants than the law in some other circuits.” Ryan, 645 F.3d at 916. This statement might have been true when Bloom was decided. By the time the Seventh Circuit read Bloom to forbid undisclosed conflicts and to make federal felonies of minor state regulatory violations and violations of civil consent decrees, however, no court anywhere had interpreted the honest-services statute more expansively. The Seventh Circuit remained “the mail fraud capital of America.” See Borre v. United States, 940 F.2d 215, 226 (7th Cir. 1991) (Easterbrook, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). 212 United States v. Bloom, 149 F.3d 649, 656–57 (7th Cir. 1998). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 57 decisions is a stretch. When Ryan had a strong argument that the undisclosed-conflicts instruction was inconsistent with Bloom, why should he have asked the Seventh Circuit to overrule this decision? Requiring litigants to anticipate the precise standard the Supreme Court approved in Skilling would make post-conviction relief available only to soothsayers. Until I proposed a bribes-and-kickbacks standard in my amicus brief in Weyhrauch, no litigant anywhere appears to have argued for this standard.213 Ryan objected to the unconstitutional thing that happened to him—directing the jury to convict him of a nonexistent crime. That should have been enough. Judge Easterbrook’s suggestion that Ryan’s name could have replaced Skilling’s on the leading Supreme Court decision if only his lawyers had been as capable as Black’s or Skilling’s214 was not only obnoxious but wrong. Conrad Black had said none of the things Judge Easterbrook apparently thought necessary to obtain relief on the basis of Skilling. Just as Black did not ask any court to disapprove Bloom, he never argued that honest-services fraud should be limited to bribery and kickback schemes. His principal argument was: “Section 1346 May be Applied to Private Sector Relationships Only if the Jury Finds that Defendants Contemplated Economic Harm to the Party to Whom ‘Honest Services’ Were Owed.”215 In its supplemental brief to the Seventh Circuit, the government observed that “Black was given the benefit of Skilling,” reviewed the arguments Black presented, and declared that Ryan had “similarly preserved his claim.”216 Judge Easterbrook apparently paid no attention. Like Black, Jeffrey Skilling did not argue in the court of appeals or in his petition for certiorari that honest-services fraud should be limited to bribery and kickback schemes. After I had proposed a bribes-andkickbacks standard in my amicus brief, however, and after some justices 213 See Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 423 (2010) (Scalia, J., concurring) (“Until today, no one has thought . . . that the honest-services statute prohibited only bribery and kickbacks.”); Brief of Albert W. Alschuler as Amicus Curiae, supra note 110, at 19–20. Ryan in fact came close to anticipating Skilling—closer than Black, Skilling, or anyone else I know of. He maintained: “A Quid Pro Quo Is Required Where Mail Fraud Charges Are Predicated On the Receipt of A Campaign Contribution” and “A Quid Pro Quo is Required Where Federal Charges Are Predicated on The Receipt of a Gift.” Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 1, supra note 70, at A-000175, A-000179 (Ryan’s Response to United States’ Motion for Pretrial Ruling on Jury Instructions) (argument headings). 214 See Ryan, 645 F.3d at 916. 215 Brief for the Pet’rs, supra note 209, at 22 (argument heading). The Supreme Court did not accept Black’s argument. Black v. United States, 561 U.S. 465, 474 (2010). Although the Court held specifically that the honest-services statute does not reach undisclosed conflicts and so accepted the argument Ryan made, post-Skilling honest-services fraud still proscribes private-sector bribes and kickbacks that have neither produced nor were expected to produce economic harm. 216 Government’s Supplemental Memorandum, supra note 204, at 6. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 58 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 had expressed interest in my proposal during the argument in Black,217 Skilling argued in the alternative for a bribes-and-kickbacks standard in his merits brief.218 Litigants in the Supreme Court, however, may not raise issues for the first time in their merits briefs. 219 The Supreme Court ignored Skilling’s belated effort to propose a bribes-and-kickbacks standard. It noted instead his principal argument— that “the honest-services statute . . . is unconstitutionally vague.”220 It declared that, in the absence of a narrowing construction, this statute would encounter the “vagueness shoal” that Skilling had protested from the outset.221 The statute apparently would have been unconstitutional in the un-narrowed form applied to him. Skilling’s objection to the statute’s vagueness entitled him to the benefit of the narrowing construction the Court approved.222 Like Skilling, Ryan had consistently objected that the honest-services statute was unconstitutionally vague. Judge Easterbrook, however, declared this objection insufficient. He wrote, “Ryan contended at trial and on appeal . . . that § 1346 is unconstitutionally vague, an argument that Skilling rejected. He never made the argument that prevailed in Skilling: that § 1346 is limited to bribery and kickback schemes.” 223 But Skilling did not reject the argument that the honest-services statute was unconstitutional in the sprawling form it took when Ryan was convicted. Judge Easterbrook and his colleagues refused to give Ryan the benefit the Court gave Skilling although Ryan had made precisely the same objection. They left Ryan’s conviction under the un-narrowed statute in place despite his persistent objection that this statute was unconstitutional. 224 B. Disregarding and Concealing the Government’s Waiver Judge Easterbrook’s claim that Ryan defaulted his objection to the undisclosed conflicts and other instructions was especially odd because 217 See Tr. of Oral Arg. at 5, 8–10, 12–13, 33–34, 42, Black v. United States, 561 U.S. 465 (2010) (No. 08-876), http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/08876.pdf [http://perma.cc/4UWZ-VUVE]. 218 See Brief of Defendant-Appellant Jeffrey K. Skilling, supra note 208, at 61–63. 219 See SUP. CT. R. 24(1)(a). Even if Skilling had proposed a bribes-and-kickbacks standard in his petition for certiorari, he would not have proposed it in the courts below. In the world of Judge Easterbrook, he would have forfeited any claim to the benefit of that standard. 220 Skilling v. United States, 561 U.S. 358, 399 (2010). 221 Id. at 368. 222 See id. at 413–14. 223 Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 915 (7th Cir. 2011). 224 Skilling and Black came before the Supreme Court on direct appeal, and a direct appeal differs in many ways from a collateral attack. In determining whether a forfeiture or procedural default has occurred, however, the two sorts of proceedings do not differ at all. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 59 the government acknowledged expressly that Ryan did not default.225 Judge Easterbrook once wrote, “Claims of waiver may be waived in turn; claims of forfeiture may be forfeited (or waived). . . . We could hardly penalize [one party] for forfeiture while overlooking [the opposing party’s] decision not to make forfeiture an issue.”226 Why, then, did Judge Easterbrook penalize Ryan’s supposed forfeiture while overlooking the government’s deliberate decision not to make forfeiture an issue? Judge Easterbrook explained, “On collateral review . . . a court may elect to disregard a prosecutor’s forfeiture, because the Judicial Branch has an independent interest in the finality of judgments.”227 The judge cited only one authority in support of this statement, Day v. McDonough.228 In Day, the Supreme Court held that, in some circumstances, a court may advance an objection a prosecutor has not made, but Day also said, “[W]e would count it an abuse of discretion to override a State’s deliberate waiver of a limitations defense.”229 It added, “[S]hould a State intelligently choose to waive a statute of limitations defense, a district court would not be at liberty to disregard that choice.” 230 The Supreme Court’s distinction between inadvertent forfeiture and deliberate waiver is one that Judge Easterbrook knows well. In our case, he declared, “Ryan himself proposed some of the instructions that the judge gave . . . and with respect to them he has waived and not just forfeited the line of argument he makes now.” 231 In a case involving another Illinois governor, he wrote, “[A]t oral argument counsel for the United States represented that the prosecutor is not invoking any doctrine of forfeiture to block appellate review. The possibility of forfeiture thus has been waived, and as the subject is not jurisdictional the prosecutor’s waiver is conclusive.”232 Recall the unequivocal language of the government’s supplemental brief: “[I]n the government’s view, Ryan has not procedurally defaulted his claim that he was convicted for conduct that is not a crime.” 233 And: “In order to obtain review of his claim in a § 2255 proceeding, Ryan does not have to establish ‘cause’ because his claim was not defaulted.”234 How See Government’s Supplemental Memorandum, supra note 204, at 6. EEOC v. Indiana Bell Tel. Co., 256 F.3d 516, 526–27 (7th Cir. 2001). 227 Ryan, 645 F.3d at 917–18. 228 547 U.S. 198 (2006). 229 Id. at 202. 230 Id. at 211 n.11. 231 Ryan, 645 F.3d at 915. Although he did not say so, Easterbrook spoke only of Ryan’s supposed waiver of objections to two challenged bribery instructions. 232 United States v. Blagojevich, 612 F.3d 558, 560 (7th Cir. 2010). 233 Government’s Supplemental Memorandum, supra note 204, at 6. 234 Id. at 7 (emphasis removed). 225 226 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 60 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 could Judge Easterbrook have disregarded the government’s express waiver of any argument that Ryan had defaulted? Certainly Judge Easterbrook could not have missed this waiver after our petition for rehearing complained loudly about his disregard of Day.235 By then, however, Judge Easterbrook’s opinion had been released to the public. Because the government’s waiver occurred in the supplemental brief it filed at the same time we filed ours and because these briefs were the parties’ last filings in the case, we couldn’t have flagged the government’s waiver earlier.236 After examining our petition, Judge Easterbrook must have known that finding a procedural default despite the government’s waiver was contrary to Day. I imagine, however, that he was unwilling to lose face by withdrawing his opinion and starting over. Judge Easterbrook’s disregard of the government’s waiver was not only insupportable but also out of character. No one has pounced on waivers, forfeitures, and defaults by government lawyers more eagerly than he.237 In a habeas corpus case brought by a state prisoner, for example, a lawyer for the state contended that no error had occurred in the prisoner’s trial. Until this lawyer filed his reply brief, however, he did not argue that, if any error had occurred, it would have been harmless. A Seventh Circuit rule then in effect provided, “A reply brief shall be limited 235 See Petition for Rehearing En Banc, supra note 32, at 1, 11–13 (emphasizing Day’s holding that it is “an abuse of discretion to override a State’s deliberate waiver”). 236 We previously emphasized the government’s forfeiture of any claim of default. See Supplemental Memorandum of Pet’r-Appellant George H. Ryan, supra note 200, at 1, 4–5. I was relieved when the government elevated its earlier forfeiture to an express waiver. I feared that Judge Easterbrook might try to invent a procedural default on Ryan’s part once he realized what Bousley, Frady, and Engle v. Isaac were really about, and I was confident that the government’s concession would prevent him from doing so. But I underestimated Judge Easterbrook. 237 See, e.g., Buchmeier v. United States, 581 F.3d 561, 563 (7th Cir. 2009) (Easterbrook, J.) (“The United States thus has forfeited, if it has not waived, any contention that the overall performance of Buchmeier’s lawyer was adequate; it has effectively consented to treating this collateral attack as a rerun of the direct appeal.”); Taylor v. United States, 287 F.3d 658, 660 (7th Cir. 2002) (Easterbrook, J.) (“As is common, the prosecutor ignored this shortcoming, forfeiting any entitlement to dismissal of the appeal for noncompliance with § 2253(c)(1)(B).”); Carter v. Litscher, 275 F.3d 663, 665 (7th Cir. 2001) (Easterbrook, J.) (“[T]he certificate of appealability fails to identify a substantial constitutional issue and thus does not satisfy 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2) . . . [but] the state has made nothing of this problem and thus has forfeited the benefits of that statute.”); United States v. Patterson, 215 F.3d 776, 785 (7th Cir. 2000) (Easterbrook, J.) (“[T]he United States did not argue forfeiture in its appellate brief. It raised forfeiture for the first time in the memorandum submitted after argument, and by that delay it forfeited any right to assert Robert’s potential forfeitures at an earlier stage.”); Owens v. Boyd, 235 F.3d 356, 358 (7th Cir. 2000) (Easterbrook, J.) (“Because the state has ignored the limitations that § 2253(c)(2) places on a court’s power to issue a certificate of appealability, it has forfeited the benefits of that statute.”). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 61 to matter in reply.”238 Because the prisoner had been convicted of an especially monstrous rape, Judge Easterbrook warned that there might soon be blood on the lawyer’s hands: Astoundingly, the state did not mention harmless error in its opening brief. . . . It got ’round to harmless error at page 19 of its reply brief. . . . The state has not offered a reason for omitting this question from its opening brief. We find it inexplicable. Procedural rules apply to the government as well as to defendants. Illinois has forfeited what would have been its best argument. If as a result a violent offender goes free, the Attorney General of Illinois must understand where the responsibility lies—with his own staff.239 In a § 2255 proceeding very similar to Ryan’s, Judge Easterbrook held the government’s forfeiture decisive. The petitioner in Toulabi v. United States240 was convicted of mail fraud before the Supreme Court held in McNally v. United States241 that the mail fraud statute proscribed only deprivations of property, not deprivations of the intangible right of honest services. When the petitioner argued that the indictment in his case charged him with conduct that is not a crime, the government responded as it did in almost every other post-McNally case: The jury could not have convicted the petitioner without finding a deprivation of property. 242 Judge Easterbrook noted that the petitioner and the government might have made the same arguments if the case had come before the court on direct appeal. Without offering an answer to the “contentious issue” of what the difference between direct and collateral review might be, he declared that McNally “[s]urely” could not be taken into account “by giving the defendant what amounts to a second appeal of his conviction.”243 Judge Easterbrook criticized some earlier Seventh Circuit decisions for failing “even [to] mention the difference between direct and collateral review,” and he wrote: 238 Wilson v. O’Leary, 895 F.2d 378, 384 (7th Cir. 1990) (quoting what was then Seventh Circuit Rule 28(f)). 239 Id. Perhaps the lawyer who forfeited what would have been the state’s best argument for keeping a vicious rapist off the streets immediately left the profession and enrolled in dental school. I think I would have. 240 875 F.2d 122 (7th Cir. 1989). 241 483 U.S. 350 (1987). 242 Toulabi, 875 F.2d at 123–24; see supra Part IV (describing McNally and its aftermath). 243 Toulabi, 875 F.2d at 124. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 62 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Our case shows why this might occur. . . . The prosecutor . . . briefed the issues just as if this were a direct appeal, and Toulabi responded in kind. This is a common sequence in McNally cases on collateral attack, and it is then not surprising when the court—without mentioning the difference between direct and collateral attack—proceeds to conduct a full review. The prosecutor's curious choice precludes us from deciding in today's case how far an appellate court should inquire into the record and instructions of a case on collateral review after McNally. We accept the case as the parties have presented it, examining the record and instructions as we would on direct appeal.244 Because the prosecutor had not made the arguments Judge Easterbrook wanted him to make and because “the jury did not necessarily find that Toulabi’s scheme deprived Chicago of . . . property,” the court reversed a trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief.245 In a concurring opinion, Judge Kenneth Ripple insisted that neither the Seventh Circuit nor the vilified prosecutor had done anything wrong. He wrote: [T]he government argued that the indictment sufficiently charged an offense and that the jury instructions did not render the trial fundamentally unfair since it was impossible for the jury to find the existence of a scheme to deprive the City of intangible rights without also finding the existence of a scheme to deprive the City of property interests. . . . This is essentially the same analysis that this court’s cases have employed in reviewing section 2255 attacks on pre-McNally mail fraud convictions. It is the analysis we should expect to see from the government in future cases as well.246 Id. at 124–25. Id. at 126. 246 Id. at 128 (Ripple, J. concurring). Like Judge Easterbrook, Judge Ripple was a conservative appointed to the Seventh Circuit by President Reagan. In subsequent cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the court appeared to disregard Judge Easterbrook’s dicta and to follow Judge Ripple’s advice. But see Young v. United States, 124 F.3d 794, 797, 803 (7th Cir. 1997) (Easterbrook, J.) (taking a position later rejected by the Supreme Court in Bousley and declaring that defendants who had pleaded guilty prior to Bailey could not challenge their convictions for noncriminal conduct, criticizing two Seventh Circuit decisions for allowing defendants to challenge their pre-Bailey guilty pleas, criticizing the U.S. Attorney’s Office for 244 245 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 63 After criticizing the government, Judge Easterbrook accepted Toulabi’s case “as the parties have presented it,” 247 and until Ryan’s case, he had done the same thing in every other case. Although a court may in appropriate circumstances disregard the government’s non-assertion of a procedural default, Judge Easterbrook seems never to have done so until Ryan’s case. In view of the fact that the government had not merely forfeited but had waived any claim of default in his case, Ryan’s was an especially inappropriate case for departing from the pattern Judge Easterbrook had observed for more than twenty-five years. In the earlier cases, disregarding the government’s non-assertion of a petitioner’s default might have been lawful, but in a case in which the government had deliberately waived any claim of default, it was not.248 Judge Easterbrook strained so hard to keep George Ryan in prison that it seems fair to speculate about his motives. The following section of this Memoir considers three hypotheses. C. Possible Explanations Hypothesis One: Judge Easterbrook sought to nullify Skilling. Although Judge Easterbrook had devised the Seventh Circuit standard that Skilling abrogated,249 this hypothesis seems to me unlikely. When researching my amicus brief in Weyhrauch, the closest thing I could find to authority for a bribes-and-kickbacks standard was a statement failing to challenge these Seventh Circuit decisions in the case before the court, criticizing the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to make several other arguments, and finally, after several pages of blustery dicta, deciding the case on the basis of the issues submitted by the parties). See Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 616 (1998) (allowing some defendants who pleaded guilty before Bailey to challenge their convictions for noncriminal conduct); Bailey v. United States, 516 U.S. 137, 143 (1995) (holding that only “active employment” of a firearm during a drug transaction constitutes “use” of the firearm during that transaction). 247 Toulabi, 875 F.2d at 124. 248 Before disregarding even an inadvertent forfeiture, a court must determine that doing so would serve the interests of justice. Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 210 (2006). Judge Easterbrook did not mention any possible interest in freeing innocent people from prison but did consider “the independent interest [of the judicial branch] in the finality of judgments.” He wrote, “Ryan’s trial lasted eight months, and his appeal led to more than 100 pages of opinions by four judges of this court.” Ryan, 645 F.3d at 918. Ryan’s trial did not last eight months, and no one ever said it did. Judge Easterbrook just made it up. Ryan’s six-month trial was bad enough. But what chutzpah it took for a court whose decisions had permitted the government to conduct a wide-ranging, kitchensink trial to cite the appalling length of this trial, not as proof that the defendant had been denied due process, but as proof of how much due process he had received. The court’s chutzpah was especially remarkable because the Supreme Court already had held the sixmonth trial improper, declaring that the jury should have heard only evidence of bribes and kickbacks. 249 See United States v. Bloom, 149 F.3d 649, 656–57 (7th Cir. 1998) (Easterbrook, J.). Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 64 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Judge Easterbrook had made for the Seventh Circuit in United States v. Thompson.250 He noted that “misuse of office” is a “slippery” phrase, declared that “one of these days we may need to gloss the phrase to reduce the risk that uncertainty poses to public servants,” and added that it would be “consistent with [the] language” of the honest-services statute to limit it to situations “in which the ‘private gain’ comes from third parties who suborn the employee with side payments.” 251 Judge Easterbrook is not a champion of the mail fraud statute, and I doubt that he sought to nullify Skilling. The judge’s extreme hostility to affording post-conviction relief, however, might have affected his judgment.252 Hypothesis Two: In “the most high profile case in Chicago in recent memory,”253 Judge Easterbrook took account of public sentiment and the prospect of criticism in the press. This hypothesis also seems to me unlikely. I doubt that Judge Easterbrook cared at all that, in Chicago parlance, Ryan’s was a “heater 484 F.3d 877, 883–84 (7th Cir. 2007). Id. at 883–84. I noted this statement several times in my brief. See Brief of Albert W. Alschuler as Amicus Curiae, supra note 110, at 3, 20, 21, 28. I sent a copy to Judge Easterbrook with a note declaring that, unlike most briefs, mine had a hero, and he was it. 252 Judge Easterbrook declared that a post-conviction petitioner was entitled to a new trial only when he could show “that on the evidence at trial in light of the later statutory interpretation the only proper judgment is a judgment of acquittal.” Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 1:19. As shown above in Part VI, Judge Easterbrook’s attribution of this standard to the Supreme Court was a fabrication. Neither that Court nor any other had required postconviction petitioners to show that the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions. But consider for a moment how harsh Judge Easterbrook’s imaginary standard would be. This standard would leave people in prison even when it seemed far more likely than not that they had never been convicted of a crime. Suppose, to take an exaggerated example, that a judge told a jury to convict a defendant of grand larceny if he either entered a store with a shopping bag or stole property worth more than $300. Suppose the evidence of entering with a shopping bag was overwhelming while the evidence of stealing was weak. The evidence of stealing consisted entirely of an identification of the defendant by a nearly blind witness who claimed to have seen him in dim light. Even after a higher court ruled that entering with a shopping bag was no crime, Judge Easterbrook apparently would leave the defendant in prison. Questions of credibility are for the jury, and, if the defendant had been convicted of larceny under proper instructions, the testimony of the nearly blind witness would have been sufficient to support his conviction. From Judge Easterbrook’s perspective, it would not matter that, because of the court’s invitation to convict of a nonexistent crime, the jury would have had no reason to examine the witness’s credibility or to consider whether the defendant stole anything. Chief Justice Rehnquist took a better view of the purpose of post-conviction remedies when he wrote for the Supreme Court in Bousley, “[O]ne of the principal functions of habeas corpus [is] ‘to assure that no man has been incarcerated under a procedure which creates an impermissibly large risk that the innocent will be convicted.’” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 620 (1998). 253 See United States v. Warner, 498 F.3d 666, 705 (7th Cir. 2007) (Kanne, J., dissenting). 250 251 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 65 case.”254 His own view of the case, however, might have been influenced by what he read in the papers. Hypothesis Three: Judge Easterbrook sought to save face. Although I do not know what motivated Judge Easterbrook’s first opinion in Ryan’s case, this final hypothesis rings truer to me than the others. For Judge Easterbrook to decide the case on the basis of the issues submitted by the parties would have been to acknowledge to his fellow judges and to the parties that his statements of law at argument had been erroneous and his badgering of counsel unjustified. If preserving his dignity required inventing a default by Ryan that never occurred and concealing a waiver by the government that did, perhaps he was willing to subordinate both truth and justice to that objective. 255 VIII. A MINI-VICTORY IN THE SUPREME COURT AND A NEW ARGUMENT As every law clerk reviewing petitions for certiorari knows, the Supreme Court’s mission is not to correct errors but to resolve “unsettled questions of federal constitutional or statutory law of general interest.” 256 Nevertheless, our certiorari petition in Ryan’s case asked for error correction. We wrote that “[t]he Seventh Circuit’s failure to follow Day and implement Skilling warrants, at a minimum, a per curiam reversal and 254 If Judge Easterbrook had sought public praise, however, his opinion would have succeeded. The Chicago Tribune editorialized: On appeal, Ryan’s attorneys advanced several arguments here, one of which was that he didn’t accept bribes or kickbacks, so he shouldn’t be in the slammer. What’s remarkable about the appellate court smackdown, written by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, is the swift backhand it delivers to that claim. . . . As if to tell Ryan’s lawyers: You cannot be serious. No, Corruption Isn’t “Just Politics”: Jurors and Judges Aren’t Buying that Defense Mantra, CHI. TRIB. (July 11, 2011), http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-11/opinion/ct-edithonest-20110711_1_public-corruption-jurors-convict [http://perma.cc/ATJ5-N73N]. 255 Early in his opinion, Judge Easterbrook came close to acknowledging that Skilling applied retroactively and that Ryan’s post-conviction petition was timely. See Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 914–15 (7th Cir. 2011), vacated and remanded, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012) (declaring that “a district court or court of appeals may make the retroactivity decision under § 2255(f)(3),” and adding, “Because the United States has waived any limitations defense to Ryan’s position, we need not decide whether Skilling applies retroactively on collateral review, though Davis . . . and Bousley . . . imply an affirmative answer”). Although Judge Easterbrook thus came close to confessing error on a tangential issue after realizing that one of his own opinions flatly contradicted his statements during argument, I doubt that he was capable of backing away from his more pivotal claim that post-conviction petitioners may not challenge the jury instructions that produced their convictions for noncriminal conduct. 256 WILLIAM H. REHNQUIST, THE SUPREME COURT: HOW IT WAS, HOW IT IS 269 (1987); see Carolyn Shapiro, The Limits of the Olympian Court: Common Law Judging Versus Error Correction in the Supreme Court, 63 WASH & LEE L. REV. 271, 278–80 (2006). Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 66 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 remand with directions to address the issues presented by the parties.”257 We cited a Supreme Court rule declaring that certiorari can be appropriate when a court of appeals has “so far departed from the accepted and usual course of judicial proceedings . . . as to call for an exercise of this Court’s supervisory power.”258 While Ryan’s petition was before the Supreme Court, the Court decided Wood v. Milyard.259 Wood was in large part a replay of Day v. McDonough.260 The Court declared, as it had in Day, that a federal court is “not at liberty . . . to bypass, override, or excuse” the government’s deliberate waiver of a non-jurisdictional defense.261 But Wood made it more difficult for a court—especially an appellate court—to disregard the government’s inadvertent forfeiture of a defense. Calling “the principle of party presentation basic to our adversary system,” the Court said that appellate courts may notice forfeited defenses only in “exceptional cases” and “extraordinary circumstances.”262 After its decision in Wood, the Supreme Court granted our petition for certiorari, vacated the Seventh Circuit’s judgment, and remanded Ryan’s case for further consideration in light of Wood.263 The Seventh Circuit would no longer be able to conceal and disregard the government’s waiver of Ryan’s supposed default, or so we thought. A new argument focused on the issues the parties had briefed and the district court decided more than a year earlier. To the amazement of everyone in the courtroom, Judge Easterbrook asked no questions. None of the seasoned court watchers in attendance could recall any other case in which he remained silent.264 Seventeen days after the argument, the court issued another opinion by Judge Easterbrook upholding the denial of post-conviction relief.265 Petition for Writ of Certiorari, supra note 41, at 3. Id. (citing S. CT. RULE 10(a)). 259 132 S. Ct. 1826 (2012). 260 547 U.S. 188 (2006). 261 Wood, 132 S. Ct. at 1830; see Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 198, 202, 210 n.11 (2006). 262 Wood, 132 S. Ct. at 1833. 263 Ryan v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2099 (2012). 264 A recording of this argument can be found at http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/sound/ 2012/migrated.orig.10-3964_07_20_2012.mp3. 265 Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 844 (7th Cir. 2012). Judge Easterbrook has not always been so speedy. His opinion for the court in the case of another former Illinois governor appeared more than one-and-one-half years after the case had been argued. See United States v. Blagojevich, 794 F.3d 729, 729 (7th Cir. 2015) (listing the argument date as Dec. 13, 2013 and the decision date as July 21, 2015). 257 258 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 67 IX. JUDGE EASTERBROOK OPINES AGAIN A. Another Concocted Waiver Judge Easterbrook’s second opinion mentioned neither the government’s waiver of Ryan’s supposed procedural default nor the imaginary default itself. Instead, the opinion announced a substantially broader waiver by the government. Judge Easterbrook declared that the government waived any objection to treating Ryan’s post-conviction challenge as though it were a direct appeal. He also declared that Wood v. Milyard required the court to treat the government’s possibly misguided decision as conclusive: The United States . . . did not contend that there is any difference between the sort of review available on a petition under § 2255 and the kind available on direct appeal. . . . At oral argument this court questioned whether the same standard should be used on direct appeal and collateral attack. We directed the parties to file supplemental memoranda concerning that subject. Once again the United States failed to contend that the standards differ. We concluded, however, that the standards are materially different, and that on collateral review the appropriate question is whether the evidence was sufficient to convict under the correct instructions. . . . The Supreme Court held Ryan’s petition for certiorari until it decided Wood v. Milyard. . . . The Supreme Court found a waiver in Wood because the state knew about a potential defense and told the court that it was not asserting it. That’s exactly what happened here. The United States Attorney learned at oral argument that there was a potential procedural argument, then informed the court that the argument was not being asserted. Why a litigant comes to such a decision is irrelevant, and a mistake in reaching a decision to withhold a known defense does not make that decision less a waiver . . . . We therefore turn to the harmless-error inquiry, framed as if this were a direct appeal.266 266 Ryan, 688 U.S. at 847–48. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 68 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 Falsehood Number Five: “The United States . . . did not contend that there is any difference between the sort of review available on a petition under § 2255 and the kind available on direct appeal.” 267 In all of its filings in the district court and the court of appeals, the government emphasized the difference between the review available under § 2255 and that available on direct appeal. The government’s supplemental brief following oral argument declared, “Collateral relief is . . . limited only to those grievously wronged; ‘an error that may justify reversal on direct appeal will not necessarily support a collateral attack on a final judgment.’”268 To be sure, the government did not claim that “on collateral review the appropriate question is whether the evidence was sufficient to convict under the correct instructions.”269 If it had, it could not have cited any decision in support. The government did contend, however, that the review afforded § 2255 petitioners was limited in the same way the Supreme Court had limited the review afforded state prisoners who sought federal habeas corpus relief. When a constitutional error (such as directing a jury to convict for noncriminal conduct) has occurred at trial, a court hearing a direct appeal must set aside the defendant’s conviction unless the government shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the error was harmless.270 In Brecht v. Abrahamson,271 however, the Supreme Court held that a less demanding harmless error standard applies in post-conviction proceedings brought by state prisoners. A state prisoner is entitled to federal habeas corpus relief only when the error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.” 272 In O’Neal v. McAninch,273 the Supreme Court modified the Brecht standard slightly.274 It then applied its modified standard in a habeas corpus proceeding in which a state prisoner alleged that jury instructions directed his conviction for Id. at 847. Government’s Supplemental Memorandum, supra note 204, at 7 (quoting Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 634 (1993), United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 165 (1982), and United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 184 (1979)) (emphasis omitted). 269 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 847. 270 See Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 24 (1967). 271 507 U.S. 619 (1993). 272 Id. at 631. 273 513 U.S. 432 (1995). 274 See id. at 436 (declaring that “[w]hen a federal judge in a habeas proceeding is in grave doubt about whether a trial error of federal law had ‘a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict,’ that error is not harmless”). 267 268 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 69 noncriminal conduct.275 The government argued that the court should apply the Brecht-McAninch harmless-error standard in Ryan’s case.276 Five years after McAninch, however, in Lanier v. United States,277 the Seventh Circuit held that the “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applies in § 2255 proceedings brought by federal prisoners. 278 The government argued that the court overlooked Brecht and McAninch when it decided Lanier,279 and it probably did. We nevertheless maintained that Lanier was correct. The federal courts’ willingness to allow state courts to deny post-conviction relief to some state prisoners who may be innocent does not imply that the federal courts should refuse to release prisoners whom they themselves have wrongly convicted.280 Although Ryan and the government battled fiercely about what harmless error standard to apply on collateral review, Judge Easterbrook portrayed the government’s lawyers as ignorant of the distinction between collateral and direct review. He attributed to them a sweeping waiver they did not make and thereby avoided acknowledging his unlawful disregard of a waiver they did make. He agreed to treat Ryan’s case as though it had arisen on direct appeal, but only because he said the government had never asked him to do anything else—not even after the court advised it that a materially different standard applied. By falsely The petitioner in McAninch claimed that erroneous instructions might have led to his conviction without the state of mind required by an Ohio statute. Id. at 435. The Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit’s denial of relief because that court had required the prisoner to assume the burden of showing that the instructional error was prejudicial. Id. at 436. The Court declared that grave doubt about whether the erroneous instructions had a substantial and injurious effect would entitle the petitioner to post-conviction relief. 276 Brief of the United States at 20–23, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (7th Cir. 2011) (No. 10-3964). 277 220 F.3d 833 (7th Cir. 2000). 278 Id. at 839. 279 See Brief of the United States, supra note 276, at 21–22. 280 We noted that the decision in Brecht rested on federalism concerns inapplicable to § 2255 proceedings brought by federal prisoners. The Supreme Court wrote: The reason most frequently advanced in our cases for distinguishing between direct and collateral review is the State’s interest in the finality of convictions that have survived direct review within the state court system. . . . We have also spoken of comity and federalism. “The States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law. In criminal trials they also hold the initial responsibility for vindicating constitutional rights. Federal intrusions into state criminal trials frustrate both the States’ sovereign power to punish offenders and their good-faith attempts to honor constitutional rights.” Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 635 (1993) (quoting Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 128 (1982)). 275 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 70 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 portraying the government’s lawyers as goats, Judge Easterbrook managed to avoid revealing what a goat he had been himself.281 B. Poor at Counting Immediately after announcing that the court would honor the government’s waiver by reviewing Ryan’s case as though it had arisen on direct appeal, Judge Easterbrook declared that the court would do no such thing. The court would refuse to review four of Ryan’s mail fraud convictions because they had come before the court on collateral review rather than direct appeal.282 The court would ignore these convictions although no judge had suggested at argument that the convictions could be ignored and although the government had never maintained that the court could properly refuse to review these convictions. Again, Ryan’s first opportunity to discuss a determinative issue would come in his petition for rehearing. The ever-moving target had shifted once again.283 Judge Easterbrook explained: Ryan was sentenced to 78 months in prison on one RICO count. This is the only sentence he is still serving. All of the others—[including his] 60 month sentences on the seven mail-fraud convictions . . . have expired. Section 2255 allows a person to contest ongoing imprisonment, 281 Judge Easterbrook earlier had portrayed Ryan’s lawyers and the district court as goats. In the statement of facts in his first Ryan opinion, he wrote: [After the Supreme Court decided Skilling,] Ryan began a collateral attack under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He contended that the jury instructions were defective because they permitted the jury to convict him on an honest-services theory without finding a bribe or a kickback . . . . Asserting that the errors could not be shown to be harmless under the standard used on direct appeal, Ryan asked for a new trial. The district court concluded that the errors are harmless under that standard and denied Ryan’s petition. Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 914 (7th Cir. 2011). By mentioning that the harmlesserror standard invoked by Ryan and employed by the district court was the one “used on direct appeal,” Judge Easterbrook apparently sought to convey the impression that Ryan’s lawyers and the district court did not understand the difference between direct and collateral review. In fact, Ryan advocated the standard used on direct appeal only because the Seventh Circuit itself had endorsed the use of this standard in Lanier. 282 Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 844, 848–49 (7th Cir. 2012). 283 By the time of Judge Easterbrook’s opinion, Ryan had filed five briefs in the Seventh Circuit—a principal brief, a reply brief, a supplemental brief following argument, a petition for rehearing, and a supplemental brief following the Supreme Court’s remand. These briefs had discussed almost everything under the sun except the possibility that the court might dredge up previously unmentioned doctrines to justify a refusal to hear his challenges. After so much process, denying due process was a challenge, but Judge Easterbrook managed to do it. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 71 and it is the single RICO sentence that underlies Ryan’s imprisonment today. The jury was told that, to convict Ryan on the RICO charge, it had to find a pattern of criminality including at least two acts of criminal mail fraud. The jury convicted Ryan on seven-mail fraud counts, so if at least two of these are valid after Skilling then the RICO conviction is valid as well. Ryan’s challenge to expired sentences may or may not be moot as a technical matter. A collateral attack begun while custody continues can continue afterward to stave off collateral consequences . . . . Ryan has not identified any collateral consequences of the mail-fraud convictions . . . that would not equally be required by the RICO conviction . . . . Even on direct appeal, courts are free to pretermit decisions about convictions producing concurrent sentences, when the extra convictions do not have cumulative effects. As a practical matter, the concurrent sentence doctrine was abrogated for direct appeal when Congress imposed a special assessment of $50 (now $100) for each separate felony conviction . . . . A collateral attack under . . . § 2255 contests only custody, however, and not fines or special assessments. An attempt to decide on collateral review whether each of the seven mail-fraud convictions was valid would smack of an advisory opinion—something that no waiver, however deliberate, can authorize. Ryan has not argued that the district judge would have given a lower sentence on the RICO count had she believed, say, that only four of the mail-fraud convictions represented bribes, and the other three represented undisclosed conflicts of interest. After all a district judge may base a sentence on established misconduct whether or not that misconduct has led to a conviction.284 After upholding three mail fraud convictions, Judge Easterbrook declared that they were “more than enough to sustain the RICO conviction and sentence.”285 Although Judge Easterbrook had indicated that reviewing more than the number of convictions needed to sustain the 284 285 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 848–49. Id. at 852. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 72 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 RICO charge would “smack of an advisory opinion—something that no waiver, however deliberate, can authorize,” he did not indicate which of the court’s three rulings was advisory.286 Judge Easterbrook’s discussion blended three doctrines that sometimes can block post-conviction review—the custody requirement, the concurrent-sentence doctrine, and mootness. Even if the judge’s portrayal of the facts had been accurate (and I will tell you shortly why it was an outrageous falsehood), none of these doctrines would have limited the court’s review of any of Ryan’s convictions. Custody. Relief under § 2255 is limited to people in custody, but custody is determined at the time a post-conviction petition is filed, not at the time a court resolves a case.287 Even when a petitioner has served his entire sentence and even when no collateral consequences of his conviction remain, a petitioner satisfies the custody requirement if, like Ryan, he was imprisoned when he filed his petition. 288 The Concurrent Sentence Doctrine. The concurrent sentence doctrine permits a court to deny review when a concurrent sentence has no adverse consequences for a petitioner.289 Judge Easterbrook acknowledged that this doctrine had become a dead letter in cases on direct review. 290 He failed to note that the Seventh Circuit also had recognized its demise in § 2255 proceedings. Vacating any of Ryan’s mail fraud convictions would have required a redetermination of his sentence, including his RICO sentence.291 In a case arising under § 2255, the Seventh Circuit said, “Our own cases . . . undercut the rationale behind the concurrent sentence doctrine; we have held that ‘the vacation of a concurrent sentence might lead the sentencing judge to reconsider a sentence not vacated.’”292 Id. at 849. See Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234, 238 (1968) (“[U]nder the statutory scheme, once the federal jurisdiction has attached in the District Court, it is not defeated by the release of the petitioner prior to completion of [the] proceedings . . . .”). 288 See Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998) (noting that the absence of any collateral consequences may make a habeas corpus action moot but does not justify a dismissal for lack of custody if the petitioner was in custody when he filed his petition). 289 See Claassen v. United States, 142 U.S. 140, 146 (1891). 290 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 849. 291 See United States v. Smith, 103 F.3d 531, 533–35 (7th Cir. 1996) (noting that vacating one or more counts in a § 2255 proceeding “unbundles” the sentencing package and requires a redetermination of sentence). 292 Borre v. United States, 940 F.2d 215, 223 n.16 (7th Cir. 1991) (quoting United States v. Holzer, 848 F.2d 822, 824 (7th Cir. 1988)). Judge Easterbrook observed, “Ryan has not argued that the district judge would have given a lower sentence on the RICO count had she believed, say, that only four of the mail-fraud convictions represented bribes, and the other three represented undisclosed conflicts of interest.” Ryan, 688 F.3d at 849. But of course Ryan would have had no reason to make any argument at all on the subject until Judge Easterbrook jumped from the box shouting “Surprise!” Even then, Ryan, like Judge 286 287 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 73 Mootness. Judge Easterbrook wrote, “Ryan’s challenge to expired sentences may or may not be moot as a technical matter.”293 Because vacating any of Ryan’s convictions would have led to resentencing on the others, none of his convictions was even arguably moot. Moreover, in a habeas corpus proceeding in which the petitioner had both completed his sentence and regained the right to vote before the Supreme Court decided his case, the Court declared: [S]ome collateral consequences of his conviction remain, including the possibility that the conviction would be used to impeach testimony he might give in a future proceeding and the possibility that it would be used to subject him to persistent felony offender prosecution if he should go to trial on any other felony charges in the future.294 Judge Easterbrook not only distorted the custody requirement, the concurrent sentence doctrine, and the doctrine of mootness; he also probably erred by declaring that any two valid mail fraud convictions would justify Ryan’s RICO conviction.295 The Supreme Court has said that a pattern of racketeering activity is not established simply by proving two predicate crimes. Although two predicates are necessary, they may not be sufficient.296 One cannot know whether the jury would have found the Easterbrook, could only have speculated about what sentence the trial judge would impose if she learned that most of Ryan’s supposed crimes were not crimes. That is why vacating some of Ryan’s convictions would have required the Seventh Circuit to remand the case to the trial judge herself for resentencing on the surviving counts. Judge Easterbrook seemed confident that, even if most of Ryan’s convictions were vacated because they were for non-criminal conduct, his initial sentence would be unchanged. “After all, a district judge may base a sentence on established misconduct whether or not that misconduct has led to a conviction.” Ryan, 688 F.3d at 849. Unlike Judge Easterbrook, however, a district judge might not regard every nondisclosure of a conflicting interest as “misconduct” after Skilling. All of Judge Easterbrook’s statements were contestable or just plain wrong, but Ryan had no opportunity to contest them. 293 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 848. 294 Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S 387, 391 n.4 (1985). See also Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40, 55 (1968) (acknowledging that an earlier Supreme Court decision had “abandoned all inquiry into the actual existence of specific collateral consequences and in effect presumed that they existed”). 295 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 848. 296 H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 492 U.S. 229, 237 (1989). One of the lessons you might draw from this Memoir is that federal criminal law and procedure are horribly complicated and arcane. The judges who pretend that jurors can understand the law are confused about it themselves. Congress could simplify things, but, like the judges, it adds new gargoyles to the edifice instead. See Albert W. Alschuler, Terrible Tools for Prosecutors: Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 74 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 requisite pattern if the number of predicate crimes had been fewer. Judge Easterbrook’s bending of doctrine was surpassed, however, by his bending of the facts. His analysis rested on a false premise. Falsehood Number Six: “Ryan was sentenced to 78 months in prison on one RICO count. This is the only sentence he is still serving. All of the others—[including his] 60 month sentences on the seven mail-fraud convictions . . . have expired.”297 Ryan’s mail fraud sentences had not expired. He entered prison on November 7, 2007.298 If, hypothetically, he had been serving only a sixtymonth (five-year) prison sentence, he would not have completed this sentence until November 7, 2012, three months after the court issued its opinion.299 Moreover, Ryan’s sentences on the mail fraud counts extended beyond sixty months of imprisonment. On each count, he was sentenced to a year of supervised release after leaving prison. 300 Supervised release qualifies as custody.301 None of the legal doctrines Judge Easterbrook invoked treat supervised release any differently from imprisonment. Ryan’s sentences on the mail fraud convictions still had fifteen months to run.302 As you are about to see, Judge Easterbrook engaged in some remarkable gymnastics to sustain the three mail fraud charges the court did review. Why was he reluctant to engage in the same gymnastics to sustain them all? I suspect he wasn’t reluctant. At argument, Judge Wood had asked whether we differentiated among the counts. I answered that we didn’t, but Judge Wood’s question made it seem likely that she did. Notes on Senator Leahy’s Proposal to “Fix” Skilling v. United States, 67 SMU L. REV. 501, 521– 24 (2014) (arguing that “democracy sucks”). 297 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 848. 298 Catrin Einhorn, Ex-Gov. Ryan of Illinois Reports to Prison, N.Y. TIMES (Nov. 8, 2007), http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/08/us/08ryan.html?_r=0 [http://perma.cc/G3BSMD4E]. 299 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 846 (noting that the court issued its opinion on August 6, 2012). 300 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol.1, supra note 70, at A-000187 (the district court’s judgment). 301 See Hensley v. Municipal Court, 411 U.S. 345, 349 (1973); Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 243 (1963); Kusay v. United States, 62 F.3d 192, 193 (7th Cir. 1995) (Easterbrook, J.). 302 A federal statute provides that a prisoner who “has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations” can receive as much as fifty-four days credit per year toward his sentence. 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) (2012). I did not know how much vested “good time” Ryan had accumulated by the date of Judge Easterbrook’s opinion, and I don’t imagine Judge Easterbrook did either. Nothing in the record indicated that Ryan had received any. Even if one were to assume that Ryan had been awarded the maximum allowable amount of good time credit toward a five-year sentence, he would have been on supervised release at the time of the Seventh Circuit’s decision. His mail fraud sentences had not “expired.” http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 75 One of the counts the court refused to address was the Harry Klein (Jamaica vacations) count. As you may recall, the government’s closing argument had emphasized that Ryan’s cash-back arrangement with Klein concealed a “classic conflict of interest,” not that it concealed a bribe. 303 The three other unreviewed counts concerned two contracts awarded to lobbying clients of co-defendant Lawrence Warner. The decisions to award these contracts had been made by professionals in Ryan’s office after competitive evaluations, and Ryan did not participate in the evaluations. Speaking of one of the contracts, the district court said, “[T]here is no suggestion that Ryan took any specific ‘action’ related to the IBM contract—and the standard definition of bribery requires some sort of official action in exchange for the benefits received.” 304 Judge Easterbrook’s opinion declared that the benefits Ryan and members of his family had received from Warner “underlay” the three mail fraud convictions the court reviewed.305 Perhaps at least Judge Wood was unwilling to say that any benefits provided by Warner underlay any of the unreviewed counts. Judge Easterbrook, however, might have persuaded Judge Wood that addressing the question would not matter because all of Ryan’s mail fraud sentences had expired. 306 C. At Long Last: The Court Addresses the Issues Briefed by the Parties Turning to the three mail fraud convictions the court agreed to review, Judge Easterbrook declared that the defects of the pre-Skilling instructions were harmless “in the strong sense that the jury must have found bribery and not just a failure to disclose a conflict of interest.” 307 He wrote, “We have three principal reasons.”308 Easterbrook’s first reason was Falsehood Number Seven—the claim described at the outset of this Memoir that the jury must have found Ryan guilty of taking bribes when it convicted him on the tax charges. 309 The tax charges had nothing to do with the government’s bribery allegations, See Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000417–18. Ryan v. United States, 759 F. Supp. 2d 975, 1000 (N.D. Ill. 2010). See also id. at 1000–01 (discussing counts 4, 5, and 7, the three counts involving Warner that the Seventh Circuit refused to review). 305 Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 844, 850 (7th Cir. 2012). 306 If this speculation is accurate, one may wonder why Judge Wood did not speak up after our petition for rehearing revealed that Ryan’s sentences had not expired. Acknowledging that Judge Easterbrook’s declaration about the expiration of these sentences had misled her, however, might have been embarrassing both to her and to him, and if neither Judge Tinder nor Judge Easterbrook was willing to join her in vacating the unreviewed convictions, she might have seen no reason to make a fuss. 307 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 849. 308 Id. 309 Id. at 849–50. 303 304 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 76 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 and Judge Easterbrook made up out of whole cloth the instructions he said had been given to the jury.310 “Second,” Judge Easterbrook wrote, “both sides argued this case to the jury as one about bribery.”311 If the parties had indeed argued the case as one about bribery without mentioning that the jury had the option of convicting Ryan for failing to disclose a conflict of interest, Judge Easterbrook’s conclusion that “the jury must have found bribery” would have been appropriate.312 Judge Easterbrook recited the government’s argument to the jury that Ryan “sold his office,” that he “might as well have put up a ‘for sale’ sign,” and that the “type of corruption here” was like a meal plan or open bar.313 He did not note that the government failed to mention the bribery instructions even once or that it called the undisclosed conflicts instruction the heart of its case. He also saw no reason to mention the government’s description of the undisclosed conflicts instruction as “the heart and soul . . . of . . . each and every Warner situation, because [of] that flow of benefits I talked to you about.”314 Judge Easterbrook did refer to one portion of the government’s argument Ryan had stressed: The prosecutor told the jury that it did not need to find a quid pro quo in order to convict. And that, Ryan maintains, means that the prosecutor was arguing that the jury could convict based on secrecy rather than bribery. We think that this misunderstands what the prosecutor meant by “quid pro quo.” A dispute developed at trial about whether the prosecution had to show that a particular payment from Warner to Ryan matched a particular decision that Ryan made to confer benefits on Warner. The prosecutor denied that matching was 310 See supra Part II. Did I indicate that Judge Easterbrook was ready at last to address the issues briefed by the parties? He was almost ready. Even when Judge Easterbrook turned to the question of harmless error that the parties had long asked the court to decide, he began his analysis by advancing an outlandish argument of his own. He did so although the Supreme Court had returned the case to the Seventh Circuit with directions to take account of a recent decision stressing the importance of adversary procedure. Perhaps Judge Easterbrook cannot help himself. 311 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 850. 312 Id. at 849. 313 Id. at 852. 314 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000417–18 (transcript of the government’s argument). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 77 necessary and contended that taking money in exchange for a promise (explicit or reasonably implied) to deliver benefits in return is bribery; it isn’t necessary to show that Warner’s paying for the band at the wedding could be matched against a particular decision Ryan made in exchange. The district judge told the jury that the prosecutor was right about this. Thus when the prosecutor denied that it was necessary to show a quid pro quo, he was not arguing that it was unnecessary to show bribery; he was arguing that Ryan’s lawyers had defined bribery too narrowly. This aspect of the prosecutor’s argument did not invite a conviction based on nondisclosure, rather than the receipt of bribes. 315 Falsehood Number Eight: A dispute developed at trial about whether the prosecution had to show that a particular payment from Warner to Ryan matched a particular decision that Ryan made to confer benefits on Warner. . . . [W]hen the prosecutor denied that it was necessary to show a quid pro quo, he was not arguing that it was unnecessary to show bribery; he was arguing that Ryan’s lawyers had defined bribery too narrowly.316 The dispute Judge Easterbrook described did not happen. He made it up. Ryan’s lawyers never maintained that “a particular payment from Warner to Ryan [must match] a particular decision that Ryan made to confer benefits on Warner.” Indeed, in the conference on jury instructions, Ryan’s counsel declared, “I understand . . . [a] one-to-one match-up is not 315 316 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 850. Id. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 78 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 required.”317 On that point, Ryan and the government had been in accord from the beginning.318 Did the prosecutor “invite a conviction based on nondisclosure,” or did he “argu[e] that Ryan’s lawyers had defined bribery too narrowly?” See what you think: Have we proved a quid pro quo? No, [we] haven’t. Have we charged a quid pro quo? No, we haven’t. We have charged an undisclosed flow of benefits back and forth. And I am going to get to the instructions in a minute, folks, but that’s what we have charged. . . . We have charged an undisclosed flow of benefits, which, under the law, is sufficient.319 When Judge Easterbrook maintained that both sides argued Ryan’s case to the jury as one about bribery, he could not have failed to realize that the instructions provided another option and that the government encouraged the jury to use it. Judge Easterbrook wrote, “Our third principal reason for finding the error in the jury instructions harmless comes from analysis of the arguments pro and con about particular counts.” 320 He then quoted at length the district court’s analysis of one count, a count involving another government contract awarded to a lobbying client of Lawrence Warner. Although professionals in Ryan’s office made the decision to award the contracts at issue in three of the counts the court refused to review, Ryan 317 Trial Transcript at 22081 (Feb. 28, 2006), United States v. Warner, 2006 WL 2583722 (N.D. Ill. 2006) (No. 02-CR-505). After Skilling, fearing that the government and the courts might try to make the issue in Ryan’s case the propriety of a “steam of benefits” concept of bribery, we began the discussion of bribery in our Seventh Circuit brief by embracing this concept ourselves: Ryan does not doubt that accepting a “retainer” with “the understanding that when the payor comes calling, the government official will do whatever is asked” is bribery. . . . He agrees that “where there is a stream of benefits given by a person to favor a public official . . . it need not be shown that any specific benefit was given in exchange for a specific official act.” He affirms that “the intended exchange in bribery can be ‘this for these’ or ‘these for these,’ not just ‘this for that.’” Brief and Required Short App’x of Pet’r-Appellant at 16, Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913 (2011) (No. 10-3964) (citations omitted). 318 Of course all discussions of the law of bribery occurred outside the presence of the jury. Even if Ryan’s lawyers and the prosecutors had differed more than they did, there would have been no reason to mention their dispute in an argument to the jury. 319 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000416 (transcript of the government’s argument). 320 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 850. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 79 made the decision to award this one. The portion of the district court opinion quoted by Judge Easterbrook declared that Ryan’s reason must have been either to promote effective law enforcement, as he claimed, or else: to compensate Warner for the stream of benefits he provided, as the Government urged. The jury rejected the good faith motive. Accordingly, the jury could only have convicted him on this count if it believed his conduct was a response to the stream of benefits. Ryan suggests that the only “private gain” he received for his intervention in this transaction was the approval of his friend. . . . [H]owever, the jurors must have rejected this argument; they were specifically instructed that if the benefits Ryan received from Warner were merely the proceeds of a friendship, they could not be the basis for a conviction. The court concludes that the jury must have found Ryan accepted gifts from Warner with the intent to influence his actions.324 This passage illustrates the fallacy that we maintained infected most of the district court’s opinion. The court spoke of “compensat[ing] Warner for the stream of benefits” and of “accept[ing] gifts from Warner with the intent to influence [Ryan’s] actions” as though they were the same thing.325 But the gifts came at an earlier point than the “compensation.” These gifts might have been unconditional and legitimate even if they inspired By equating gratitude and later did prompt “compensation.”326 subsequent favoritism for a benefactor with bribery, the district court concluded that the jury must have found bribery. Few elected officials, however, disregard the interests of friends and supporters entirely. If a jury finding that Ryan sought to benefit Warner established that he had 321 Under the instructions, the jury could have found a lack of good faith simply because Ryan failed to disclose a conflict of interest, and it might have found non-disclosure of a conflict even if Ryan’s only reason for approving the contract was to promote effective law enforcement. But ignore that difficulty. 322 The instructions did not require the jury to find any “private gain” at all on Ryan’s part. If he “misused his office” to provide “private gain” to anyone including Warner, he would have been guilty of honest services fraud. 323 I will discuss this erroneous statement in text shortly. 324 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 852 (quoting Ryan v. United States, 759 F. Supp. 2d 975, 999 (N.D. Ill. 2010)). 325 Id. 326 Id. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 80 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 committed bribery, almost every other elected official must be guilty of bribery too.327 Among the errors of the quoted passage was its statement that “the jurors . . . were specifically instructed that if the benefits Ryan received from Warner were merely the proceeds of a friendship, they could not be the basis for a conviction.”328 The jury instructions mentioned friendship only in their description of an Illinois statute—one that forbade accepting gifts from lobbyists but exempted “anything provided on the basis of a personal friendship.”329 The court told the jury that violating this statute or any of a number of other Illinois statutes to produce private gain for Ryan or anyone else constituted honest services fraud.330 If Warner’s gifts to Ryan were given on the basis of friendship, the jury could not properly have rested Ryan’s conviction on his violation of this statute. But the jury could have based its conviction on any of a number of other grounds, including Ryan’s failure to disclose the conflict of interest created by Warner’s gifts. 331 Although a gift from someone like Klein, who was not a lobbyist, could not violate the statute, it could create a conflict of interest, and a gift provided by a lobbyist on the basis of friendship could too.332 Our brief explained how the district court had inflated its instruction; it had never told the jury that “if the benefits Ryan received from Warner were merely the proceeds of a friendship, they could not be the basis for a conviction.”333 At argument, however, Judge Wood asked, “So what do you do with the instruction that the jury was given saying don’t convict if you think it was just friendship? Don’t convict if you think it was a gift. The jury did convict.”334 I replied: 327 See Alschuler, supra note 68, at 481–82 (noting that every definition of bribery looks to the moment an alleged bribe is received and that none includes subsequent favoritism for a benefactor). 328 Ryan, 688 F.3d at 852. 329 Separate App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, Vol. 2, supra note 59, at A-000421 (jury instructions describing 5 ILCS 425/10 as that provision read from January 1, 1999 through the end of 2002). 330 Id. 331 See id. at A-000420 (the conflict of interest instruction). 332 Only one of the benefits provided by Warner even arguably might have violated the statute forbidding the acceptance of gifts from lobbyists—his failure to charge a fee for adjusting an insurance claim after Ryan’s apartment flooded on Christmas Day. See Brief and Required Short App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, supra note 317, at 8. Campaign contributions were specifically exempted from the statutory prohibition, and none of the other benefits Warner provided went to people who were prohibited from receiving them. See id.; supra Part III (describing the benefits given by Warner). The statute was all but irrelevant to the government’s case. 333 Brief and Required Short App’x of Pet’r-Appellant, supra note 317, at 25. 334 Oral Argument, supra note 157, at 34:39. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 81 There is no such instruction, Your Honor. . . . [T]he only mention of friendship comes in the context of an Illinois statute that prohibits gifts from lobbyists and other prohibited sources, and it says that it does not prohibit gifts made on the basis of friendship. It doesn’t say that failure to disclose a gift made on the basis of friendship can’t be the basis for a conviction on a conflict of interest theory. It doesn’t say that Ryan can’t be convicted simply for favoring friends in the award of government benefits.335 We pointed out the district court’s error once more in our supplemental brief following the Supreme Court’s remand.336 Thus we had noted the district court’s error three times before Judge Easterbrook embraced it. I considered listing as Falsehood Number Nine the declaration that the jury was instructed not to convict if Warner provided his gifts on the basis of friendship. Because this statement originated in an understandable error of the district court rather than a phantasm of Judge Easterbrook, however, it probably does not rise to the whopper level. Perhaps it proves only that talking to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is like talking to a wall. We noted the error a fourth time in our petition for rehearing,337 but the court saw no reason to correct it. X. LARGER LESSONS AND SOME PROPOSALS FOR REFORM A. Decent Procedure in an Adversary System Here’s what Judge Easterbrook wrote in 1989: I [offer no] praise for judges who . . . write essays about issues the parties did not present. Just as the parties may choose the terms of their contract, they may choose the subjects of their litigation. Resolving a case on a ground not presented denies the parties this autonomy and increases the risk [of] an uninformed opinion. . . . It is Id. at 34:48–35:35. See Circuit Rule 54 Statement of Pet’r-Appellant at 18–19 n.21, Ryan v. United States, 688 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2012) (No. 10-3964). 337 Ryan’s Petition for Rehearing with Suggestion of Rehearing En Banc, supra note 34, at 8. 335 336 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 82 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 hard enough to navigate when the court sticks to questions fully ventilated by counsel. 338 The view of the adversary system Judge Easterbrook took in 1989 is the one endorsed by the Supreme Court: In our adversary system . . . we rely on the parties to frame the issues for decision and assign to courts the role of neutral arbiter of matters the parties present. . . . [A]s a general rule, “our adversary system is designed around the premise that the parties know what is best for them, and are responsible for advancing the facts and arguments entitling them to relief.”339 The Court has said, “To the extent courts have approved departures from the party presentation principle in criminal cases, the justification has usually been to protect a pro se litigant’s rights.”340 It has quoted with approval Judge Richard Arnold: “Counsel almost always know a great deal more about their cases than we do, and this must be particularly true of counsel for the United States, the richest, most powerful, and best represented litigant to appear before us.”341 Judge Easterbrook’s saturnalia of sua sponte continued unabated after the Supreme Court remanded Ryan’s case for reconsideration in light of Wood v. Milyard.342 In Wood, the Court again reiterated the importance of adversary procedure. It said, “[A] federal court does not have carte blanche to depart from the principle of party presentation basic to our adversary system,” and it added: For good reason, appellate courts ordinarily abstain from entertaining issues that have not been raised and preserved in the court of first instance. . . . That restraint is all the more appropriate when the appellate court itself spots an issue the parties did not air below, and therefore 338 Frank H. Easterbrook, Afterword: On Being a Commercial Court, 65 CHI-KENT L. REV. 877, 880 (1989). 339 Greenlaw v. United States, 554 U.S. 237, 243–44 (2008) (quoting Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 386 (2003) (Scalia, J., concurring)). 340 Id. at 243–44. 341 Id. at 244 (quoting United States v. Samuels, 808 F.2d 1298, 1301 (8th Cir. 1987) (Arnold, J., concurring in the denial of rehearing en banc)). 342 See Ryan v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2099, 2099 (2012) (remanding in light of Wood v. Milyard, 132 S. Ct. 1826 (2012)). http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 83 would not have anticipated developing in their arguments on appeal. 343 Judge Easterbrook apparently was unimpressed. He disregarded not only the Supreme Court’s admonition but also Seventh Circuit decisions insisting on the party-presentation principle.344 By the time Ryan’s case ended, he had made six rulings in favor of the government that the government had not sought—that by convicting on the tax charges the jury must have found bribery; that all of Ryan’s five-year sentences for Wood v. Milyard, 132 S. Ct. 1826, 1833–34 (2012). An example is Judge Richard Posner’s opinion in Hartman v. Prudential Insurance Co. The plaintiffs in this diversity action arising under Illinois law were two orphans. As the court described the facts, the plaintiffs’ father wanted to make them the beneficiaries of two life insurance policies. His estranged wife, however, bribed an insurance agent to thwart the father’s objective. She then persuaded her lover to murder the father, and she collected a substantial settlement from the insurer. The defendants were the estranged wife, the bribed agent, and the insurer. The district court entered summary judgment in their favor. Hartman v. Prudential Ins. Co., 9 F.3d 1207, 1208–09 (7th Cir. 1993). The Seventh Circuit agreed with the district court that the plaintiffs were not entitled to the remedy they sought, reformation of the insurance policies. Id. at 1214. An intermediate appellate court in California, however, had approved a recovery of damages in a similar case. Id. at 1213. Although the California decision broke new ground by allowing recovery for fraud by people who had not themselves relied on fraudulent representations, Judge Posner wrote that the court had “no reason to doubt that Illinois” courts would follow the California decision. Id. The Seventh Circuit nevertheless affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants because the plaintiffs’ counsel had not sought recovery on the theory approved by the California court. Id. at 1214–15. “We are not happy with this result,” Judge Posner wrote. Id. at 1214. He explained, however, that a contrary ruling would create unfortunate incentives. “One consequence . . . would be that prudent appellees would have to brief issues not raised or pressed by appellants lest the appellate court fasten on such a (non)issue and use it to upend the judgment of the trial court.” Hartman, 9 F.3d at 1214. (Of course a prudent party would have no reason to discuss issues not raised by his opponent if the court followed a consistent practice of allowing supplemental briefing before deciding a case on the basis of an issue not previously raised.) “Another consequence would be to diminish the responsibility of lawyers and to reduce competition among them.” Id. Commentators have bemoaned the courts’ inconsistency. Although they may strictly enforce the adversary system’s rules of forfeiture when deserving orphans seek recovery from murdering step-mothers and insurance companies, the same courts may follow what the commentators call “the gorilla rule” when their sua sponte actions will enable them to ensure the finality of judgments and the continued imprisonment of possibly innocent people. See, e.g., Melissa M. Devine, When Courts Save Parties From Themselves: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Federal Circuit and the Court of International Trade, 21 TUL. J. INT’L & COMP. L. 329, 332–33 (2013); Robert J. Martineau, Considering New Issues on Appeal: The General Rule and the Gorilla Rule, 40 VAND. L. REV. 1023, 1061 (1987); Barry A. Miller, Sua Sponte Appellate Rulings: When Courts Deprive Litigants of an Opportunity to be Heard, 39 SAN DIEGO L. REV. 1253, 1310 (2002) (discussing inconsistent use of the gorilla rule); Tory A. Weigand, Raise or Lose: Appellate Discretion and Principled Decision-Making, 17 SUFFOLK J. TRIAL & APP. ADV. 179, 180 (2012) (“[W]hen the governing rule is declared to be both firm but discretionary, the hairs on the back of the neck tend to bristle.”). 343 344 Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 84 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 mail fraud had expired; that the concurrent sentence doctrine (or something else) made it inappropriate to review more than two (or three) of these convictions; that Ryan had forfeited his objection to the undisclosed-conflicts instruction; that Day v. McDonough allowed the court to disregard the government’s waiver of a claim of forfeiture; and that a post-conviction petitioner may not complain about erroneous instructions that directed his conviction for noncriminal conduct. 345 In most of these rulings, Judge Easterbrook flouted the basic principle of fairness the Supreme Court has said courts must observe when they find sufficient reason for departing from the party-presentation principle: “Of course, before acting on its own initiative, a court must accord the parties fair notice and an opportunity to present their positions.” 346 When a litigant’s first opportunity to address a decisive issue comes in his petition for rehearing, it comes too late. For one thing, petitions for rehearing are difficult to write. An advocate must determine which audience to address. Does he hope to persuade the erring opinion writer to repent? Does he hope to persuade the other members of the panel to stand up to him? Or does he hope to find champions among judges not on the panel?347 Although an advocate is likely to criticize an opinion more forcefully when he has abandoned all hope of winning its author’s vote, he dare not punch hard even then—certainly not as hard as he would have if opposing counsel had advanced the same arguments. A good advocate does not speak truth to federal judicial power; instead, as if appearing before Vladimir Putin, he seeks a way to make his point while minimizing the risk of umbrage. In a petition for rehearing, he depicts every howling error and every lie as a slight misapprehension. Whatever an advocate says, it’s unlikely anyone will listen. The Seventh Circuit advises lawyers, “Petitions for rehearing are filed in many cases, usually without good reason or much chance of success. Few are granted.”348 The court’s view seems to be that its opinions are so close to perfection that lawyers should just save their time and their clients’ 345 Judge Easterbrook’s first opinion in Ryan’s case focused almost entirely on Ryan’s supposed failure to make proper objection to the instructional errors. Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 915 (2011). At the end of this opinion, however, Judge Easterbrook made clear that he had not retreated from his statements at argument that instructional errors are not cognizable in post-conviction proceedings. See id. at 917 (“Jury instructions that misstate the elements of an offense are not themselves a ground of collateral relief . . . . (Unconstitutional jury instructions are a different matter. . . . But Skilling is about statutory interpretation.)”). 346 Day v. McDonough, 547 U.S. 188, 210 (2006). 347 Whatever the advocate’s goal, he is allowed only fifteen double-spaced pages to achieve it. See FED. R. APP. P. 40(b). 348 Practitioner’s Handbook, supra note 154, at 158. http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 85 money. Federal appellate judges rarely back away from published opinions, and an advocate should bother them only when he has found a smoking gun. Partly because of the dismissive view most judges take of petitions for rehearing, the rule should be that an appellate court may never rest a decision in whole or in part on a ground the parties have had no prior opportunity to address. There should be no exceptions. When, following argument, a judge believes he has found something important the parties have missed, the court should invite supplemental briefing or else offer the parties another way to have their say. An informal procedure might suffice. An individual judge could simply pose a question to counsel on both sides by letter (with copies to the other judges on the panel and to the court’s case file). The judge’s letter could set forth an issue the parties had not raised and request responses by a specified time. The use of this procedure might delay the issuance of an opinion, but so be it. Sending questions by letter might be useful even before argument if, for example, a judge found a thirty-five year old case cited by neither party that made him “wonder what we have got here if anything.” The gain in the quality of answers produced by advance notice of some queries might justify the accompanying diminution of the questioner’s sadistic satisfaction. Providing an opportunity to be heard before a court makes a sua sponte ruling is essential to fairness, and it also is likely to improve the quality of judicial decisions. Judge Easterbrook’s rulings in Ryan show how wrong judges are likely to be when they strike out on their own. 349 B. Correcting Errors The New York Times publishes corrections every day. When a Times story refers to 556 federally recognized American Indian tribes rather than 566, the Times fixes it.350 When a story says that Sumba is southwest of Bali rather than southeast, the Times notes the error.351 When John Coppolella’s name has been spelled John Coppalella, a correction appears.352 And when I see a New York Times correction, I think: Those guys are professionals. They care about getting things right. 349 Admittedly, Judge Easterbrook managed to get things wrong even when he did allow supplemental briefing. 350 Corrections: March 1, 2015, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 1, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/ 03/01/pageoneplus/corrections-march-1-2015.html [http://perma.cc/ZN7C-CC5L]. 351 Id. 352 Corrections: March 8, 2015, N.Y. TIMES (Mar. 8, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/ 03/08/pageoneplus/corrections-march-8-2015.html [http://perma.cc/JL3N-GRHN]. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 86 VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [Vol. 50 The Justices of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court’s Reporter of Decisions are professionals too. Until the “final, official text” of a Supreme Court opinion appears in a bound volume of the United States Reports, all versions of the opinion issued by the Court note that it remains subject to revision.353 In practice, that means that every opinion remains subject to revision for as long as five years, and “the Justices—or, in any event, the Court’s staff—invest much energy in correcting . . . errors.”354 When Judge Easterbrook maintained that George Ryan had received as much process as was due, he wrote, “Ryan’s trial lasted eight months.”355 The assertion wasn’t true, but the error wasn’t important. Ryan’s six-month trial was bad enough. Many of us have made errors like that. Nevertheless, our petition for rehearing noted the error, and it was not corrected. None of the more serious errors described in this Memoir were corrected either, although they had been brought to the court’s attention in our petitions for rehearing. Why would Judge Easterbrook and his colleagues have left uncorrected, say, the untenable argument that Ryan’s conviction on the tax charges showed that the jury had found him guilty of taking bribes? Here are four hypotheses: (1) The judges of the Seventh Circuit do not read petitions for rehearing. (2) The judges felt in their bones that we must be wrong. (3) Although the argument based on the tax counts was untenable, it provided only one of three reasons for concluding that the jury must have found that Ryan took bribes. Because eliminating this argument would not have changed the outcome of the case, the judges did not care that it was wrong. And (4) Judge Easterbrook himself did not strike the untenable argument because acknowledging that he had made up the facts would have been embarrassing, and his colleagues remained silent because they did not want to embarrass or confront him. None of these reasons for refusing to correct an error is any good. When a judge learns at any time before his court issues its mandate that an opinion he has written or joined contains a clear error, he should act to correct it, and he should do so even if the error is not outcomedeterminative or important. Like the journalists of the New York Times and Bound Volumes, UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT, http://www.supremecourt.gov/ opinions/boundvolumes.aspx [http://perma.cc/UU7V-9HBA]. 354 Charles Rothfeld, Should the Supreme Court Correct Its Mistakes? Yes, If the Process Is Fair and Open, 128 HARV. L. REV. F. 56, 56 (2014). Even decades after the publication of an opinion, the Court may revise it through a formal, published order. See Richard J. Lazarus, The (Non)finality of Supreme Court Opinions, 128 HARV. L. REV. 540, 561–62 (2014). The Court recently began to provide greater notice of its “postrelease edits to slip opinions.” UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT, http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/slipopinion/15 [https://perma.cc/P8D3-AAKU]. 355 Ryan v. United States, 645 F.3d 913, 918 (7th Cir. 2011). See supra note 355. 353 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3 Alschuler: How Frank Easterbrook Kept George Ryan in Prison 2015] Easterbrook 87 the Justices of the Supreme Court, the judges of the United States courts of appeals should take pride in their work and should think of themselves as members of a profession whose standards include truth-telling and accuracy.356 XI. CONCLUSION Judge Easterbrook is a stickler for rules who breaks the rules. The other judges of the Seventh Circuit should enforce the rules, respect the basic principles of the adversary system, and check Judge Easterbrook’s penchant for confabulation. 28 U.S.C. § 46(b) does not put three judges on a panel to promote “collegiality.” 356 The authors of codes of judicial conduct might do well to borrow some key provisions of the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists. See SPJ Code of Ethics, SOCIETY OF PROF’L JOURNALISTS (Sept. 6, 2008), https://www.spj.org/pdf/ethicscode.pdf [http://perma.cc/HC6R-D6TM]. Produced by The Berkeley Electronic Press, 2015 Valparaiso University Law Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 , Art. 3 http://scholar.valpo.edu/vulr/vol50/iss1/3