Crime Follies: Overcriminalization, Independent Prosecutors, and the Rule of Law

26 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

Date Written: December 3, 2018


This chapter from Peter W. Morgan & Glenn H. Reynolds, "The Appearance of Impropriety: How The Ethics Wars Have Undermined American Government, Business, and Society" describes how the combination of politically inspired prosecutions and indeterminate criminal offenses has served to undermine fairness and faith in government.

Excerpt: "In the old days, we would refrain from ringing up the cops until after there was fairly clear evidence of a crime, such as Professor Plum lying in a pool of blood in the conservatory. Off everyone would go looking for clues, with the concrete fact of Professor Plum's corpse to focus their energies. Today, though, we frequently summon our sophisticated investigative technicians before there is evidence of a crime. We run to the phone as soon as someone suggests Colonel Mustard might have committed some impropriety. We then try to solve the mystery of whether this or some other past indiscretion of Colonel Mustard just might constitute a crime. Nowadays, it is more remarkable when the ethics crime laboratory cannot come up with a viable theory of criminality than when it can."

Particular attention is paid to the False Statements Act, 18 U.S.C. 1001.

Suggested Citation

Reynolds, Glenn Harlan, Crime Follies: Overcriminalization, Independent Prosecutors, and the Rule of Law (December 3, 2018). University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: or

Glenn Harlan Reynolds (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996-1810
United States
865-974-6744 (Phone)

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