Its own conduct in the Enron matter had a lot to do with that, of course, but so did the overzealousness of federal prosecutors in exploiting the serious imperfections in federal mens rea doctrine.
The Supreme Court should repudiate the notion that avoiding conviction of morally blameless conduct is the only goal of mens rea doctrine.
Finally, courts should substantially overhaul federal mens rea doctrine.
At the level of theory, the goal of mens rea doctrine is sound but unduly narrow.
In addition to making disproportionate punishment a proper concern of mens rea doctrine, courts should free the prevailing federal method of selecting mens rea levels from the shackles that prevent it from achieving its important goal of aligning punishment and blameworthiness.
This more robust mens rea doctrine could be the single most important contribution the courts could make to avoiding the qualitative problems associated with overcriminalization.
The goal of current federal mens rea doctrine, in other words, is nothing short of protecting moral innocence against the stigma and penalties of criminal punishment.
Although the scholarly community has been quick to embrace the goal of innocence-protection, (3) this Essay argues that federal mens rea doctrine rests on an unduly narrow conception of "innocence.
Consequently, if the goal really is to protect "innocence" by ruling out morally undeserved punishment, mens rea doctrine must do more than guarantee a modicum of moral blameworthiness as a precondition to punishment.
Given that federal prosecutors do not seek to charge morally blameless people, mens rea doctrine aimed only at protecting moral blamelessness from punishment will largely be redundant of prosecutorial discretion.
As this brief survey of current mens rea doctrine suggests, the recent mens rea cases have given rise to a dramatically different approach to mens rea in the federal system.