In personal injury cases in the U.S.A., large amounts of money can be involved and lawyers work for contingent fees. Thus it can be worth a lawyer's while to pay a substantial bribe to a judge.

Scott Turow's novel Personal Injuries is about an FBI investigation of judges in the fictitious Kindle County who take bribes. (All of Scott Turow's novels are stories about lawyers and judges in or from Kindle County in a fictitious midwestern state whose name is never mentioned.)

These are not federal judges. So why would it be the FBI rather than authorities of the state in which Kindle County is located?

1 Answer 1


The federal Hobbs Act has been interpreted to prohibit state and local officials from accepting bribes, under the theory of "extortion under color of right". Violation of the Hobbs Act is a federal felony, so the FBI here is investigating a federal crime, which is their job.

As explained on Wikipedia, it has been common since the 1970s for federal law enforcement to investigate and prosecute public corruption at the state and local level, presumably for the practical reason that they are less likely to be involved in the corruption itself. The Hobbs Act and a few other federal laws (mail and wire fraud, RICO, etc) are mentioned as providing the legal authority for this.

You can read more about this aspect of the Hobbs Act, its interpretation and enforcement, in the US Attorneys' Manual. They give a citation to United States v. Murphy, 768 F.2d 1518 (7th Cir. 1985) which is a case very similar to what you describe: a local judge was convicted of a Hobbs Act violation for accepting bribes in exchange for fixing the outcomes of cases.

  • To expand upon this... if a municipal judge were bribed in a small (population-wise) rural county... it would be much easier for the briber to also pay off a local investigator than it would be to pay off a federal (or even a state) investigator, and of course the corrupt investigator would find no evidence of corruption.
    – Doktor J
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 19:52

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