Ronald Goldfarb

Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington, D.C., attorney and author of 12 books, including After Conviction: A Review of the American Correction System. He edited and contributed to After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy, and Security in the Information Age. He was a prosecutor in the Justice Department under Robert F. Kennedy.

Recent Articles

How Presidential Pardons Work—or Should

There are standards and norms, not that Trump seems to know or care.

President Trump recently pardoned two Oregon cattle ranchers—father and son—who were imprisoned for setting fire to federal land, in what one publication referred to as the latest in his “clemency spree.” He has also pardoned conservative political commentator and Trump supporter Dinesh D’Souza because he thought “he was treated very unfairly by our government.” He has said he plans to pardon Martha Stewart and commute the sentence of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. CNN has reported the president is considering “at least 30 more;” and he has already pardoned one (deserving) person at the urging of Kim Kardashian. He seems to hand out pardons as party favors, for his own reasons and outside settled practices. Some wonder if these instances of this president’s idiosyncratic, personalized use of the constitutional pardon power may be a signal to colleagues and friends under investigation by Special Counsel...

No Big-Game Hunting at Justice

How federal prosecutors let major white-collar criminals off the hook and stick shareholders with the costs of corporate crime

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives By Jesse Eisinger Simon and Schuster This article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . In 1939, the Indiana University sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term “white-collar crime,” economic offenses by respectable people, a category of wrongdoing that went relatively unpunished in the early laissez--faire years of our business-oriented country. By the mid-20th century, corporate excesses led to regulatory legislation, but prosecuting corporate crime was not a priority. Some notable critics—Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, the SEC’s enforcement chief Stanley Sporkin, federal prosecutor and later trial judge Jed Rakoff—were exceptions. Federal Judge Henry Friendly warned, “In our complex society, the accountant’s certificate and the lawyer’s opinion can be instruments for pecuniary laws more potent than...

How the Russia Investigation Could Turn on 50-Year-Old Court Case

A former Justice Department prosecutor explores how a 1966 Supreme Court ruling could form the basis for possible future prosecutions.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
“Whoever commits an offense against the U.S. or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.” —18 U.S.C. 2 Under the United States federal criminal code, anyone who violates the country’s federal statutes is subject to prosecution . Since the emails involving Donald Trump Jr.’s contacts with a Russian government-connected lawyer have been publicized, legal and linguistic experts have been debating whether and who may have been guilty of criminal wrongdoing. To paraphrase George and Ira Gershwin over contacts with Russian operatives: “You say collusion, and I say collision,” while the president sings, “Let’s call the whole Russia thing off.” When I was an organized crime prosecutor in the Justice Department under Attorney General Robert Kennedy, I tried a case that ultimately went to the Supreme Court. That ruling, U.S. v. Charles E. Lester and Edward Anthony Buccieri ,...

A Just Conclusion in the Snowden Case

Edward Snowden deserves a plea bargain that balances his interests with those of the U.S. government.

(Photo: AP)
As we approach the end Barack Obama's presidency, he, like other presidents before him, will have a final look at the possible use of clemency—his commutation and pardon powers—to correct past injustices. Recently, Obama pardoned 78 convicts, and commuted the sentences of 153 federal inmates, bringing the total to 1,324—reportedly the largest number of commutations by any president in our history. Unlike some presidents who issued “last-minute” pardons for cynical reasons (favors to political or financial friends), Obama has used his clemency powers to alleviate broad injustices resulting from our harsh nonviolent drug laws. In contrast to his merciful acts in those notorious cases, it is unlikely that Obama will pardon Edward Snowden, though his supporters are arguing that doing so would correct his administration’s excessive use of the sedition laws. Even Eric Holder, Obama’s friend and former Attorney General, now agrees that enforcement of...