University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, better known as the Internet's Instapundit, has harsh words for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. While President Trump has tweeted anger at Sessions for recusing himself from the ongoing investigation of ties between Russia and the 2016 election, Reynolds is ready to move on to something more important:
Under "civil forfeiture," law enforcement can take property from people under the legal fiction that the property itself is guilty of a crime. ("Legal fiction" sounds better than "lie," but in this case the two terms are near synonyms.) It was originally sold as a tool for going after the assets of drug kingpins, but nowadays it seems to be used against a lot of ordinary Americans who just have things that law enforcement wants. It's also a way for law enforcement agencies to maintain off-budget slush funds, thus escaping scrutiny.
Sessions supports robust civil forfeiture and for having federal laws supersede state laws against seizing assets without charges. Reynolds again:
Some states have required that people be convicted of a crime before the government can seize their assets, but the feds have no such requirement. Congress should enact one. As the editors of National Review write:
"This is almost certainly unconstitutional, something that conservatives ought to understand instinctively. Like the Democrats' crackpot plan to revoke the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens who have been neither charged with nor convicted of a crime simply for having been fingered as suspicious persons by some anonymous operative in Washington, seizing an American's property because a police officer merely suspects that he might be a drug dealer or another species of miscreant does gross violence to the basic principle of due process."
When even the conservatives at National Review, known for their love of "law and order," are calling bullshit, it's time to pull the plug. "The message it sends," writes Reynolds, "is that the feds see the rest of us as prey, not as citizens. The attorney general should be ashamed to take that position. And, really, he should just be gone."