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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Culture of Corruption?

Last year, acting United States Attorney Ralph Marra referred to a "culture of corruption" in New Jersey after the legendary Bid Rig arrests were announced.  (This was the case in which admitted bank fraudster Solomon Dwek starred as a filmmaker and agent provocateur.)  Marra's comments followed years of his predecessor Chris Christie's targeting public corruption in New Jersey. 

Now the new U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, believes that there isn't necessarily a "culture of corruption."  (See this commentary piece by Bob Braun of the Newark Star-Ledger.)  This may be true, technically.   However, what peope sense is a culture of public emplopyee privilege, of special treatment, of a double standard.  The actions and attitudes which give rise to these sentiments often do not amount to crimes at all -- even in an era where federal crimes are so expansive that noted criminal defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate wrote a 2009 book titled "Three Felonies a Day" -- but many people instinctively feel that something just isn't fair, just, equitable, or right in the Garden State.  

Perhaps it is more accurate to talk about a culture of entitlement, of special privilege.  

U.S. Attorney Fishman seems a much more sedate -- some would say, professional -- man.  I surmise that he wishes to avoid antagonizing the public sector officials (elected or appointed), administrators and other employees.  After all, many of them know or will come across evidence of potentially criminal behavior.   A smart prosecutor will want to welcome in these tips and keep the pipeline of information as open as possible.  That may be the most prudent approach to protecting the people of New Jersey.

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer.   

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