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This course will examine the law of federal crimes. Specific topics will include civil rights offenses, extortion, sprawling drug conspiracies, RICO, money-laundering, "material support" of terrorist organizations, fraud, official corruption, corporate prosecutions, deferred prosecutions, the unusual path federal courts have taken in interpreting mens rea requirements, criminal sentencing under the advisory but still curiously detailed Sentencing Guidelines, federal jurisdiction and Congress's constitutional authority to enact criminal prohibitions, and the many ways in which Congress has delegated its criminal lawmaking power. A major theme of the course will be that federal crimes are defined less by Congress than by complex interactions among the three branches of government, with prosecutors and judges playing an essential role in determining the actual on-the-ground definitions of federal crimes. This delegation of power raises challenging questions about legitimacy, accountability, discretion, and institutional competence.
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