Magazine October 5, 2009, Issue

Power Grabs

Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, by Harvey A. Silverglate (Encounter, 350 pp., $25.95)

Early in U.S. history, the Supreme Court made a momentous decision that remains our most important protection from the abuses of criminal law: It rejected a federal common law of crimes that would have authorized judges to punish the misconduct that they believed endangered social order. Only the legislature, not the judiciary or the executive, could create new offenses. This constitutional requirement ensured both that society’s representatives would deliberate before criminalizing a new category of behavior and that citizens would possess adequate notice before being subject to the awesome rigors of criminal justice.

In essence, the thesis of attorney Harvey Silverglate’s

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A reader argues that drug dealers are criminals — and if drugs were legalized, they would still be criminals.


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