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Clarence Thomas Condemns Civil Asset Forfeiture, Points to 'Egregious and Well-Chronicled Abuses'

Justice Thomas says SCOTUS should review the constitutionality of asset forfeiture in a future case.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case filed by a Texas woman who says that her due process rights were violated when the police seized over $200,000 in cash from her family despite the fact that no one has been convicted of any underlying crime associated with the money. Unfortunately, thanks to the state's sweeping civil asset forfeiture laws, the authorities were permitted to take the money of this innocent woman.

C-SPANC-SPANThe Supreme Court offered no explanation today for its refusal to hear the case of Lisa Olivia Leonard v. Texas. But one member of the Court did speak up. In a statement respecting the denial of certiorari in the case, Justice Clarence Thomas made it clear that he believes the current state of civil asset forfeiture law is fundamentally unconstitutional.

"This system—where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use—has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses," Thomas declared.

Furthermore, he wrote, the Supreme Court's previous rulings on the matter are starkly at odds with the Constitution, which "presumably would require the Court to align its distinct doctrine governing civil forfeiture with its doctrines governing other forms of punitive state action and property deprivation." Those other doctrines, Thomas noted, impose significant checks on the government, such as heightened standards of proof, various procedural protections, and the right to a trial by jury. Civil asset forfeiture proceedings, by contrast, offer no such constitutional safeguards for the rights of person or property.

But because Lisa Olivia Leonard "raises her due process arguments for the first time in this Court," Thomas concluded, the Supreme Court has no business weighing in until the lower court has properly considered those arguments first.

That's bad news for Lisa Olivia Leonard. But there is a silver lining for all critics of civil asset forfeiture. When the right case does finally come along, Justice Thomas insisted today, SCOTUS should tackle the unconstitutional practice head on.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    When the right case does finally come along, Justice Thomas insisted today, SCOTUS should tackle the unconstitutional practice head on.

    I have zero optimism the decision would go the right way.

  • John C. Randolph||

    After they fucked up Kelo, I lost all respect for the court. I wasn't even surprised when they concocted their asinine rationalization for the Obamacare mandate.

    -jcr

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Thomas is the only justice who dissented to Kelo left alive, so I doubt there'll be any just result from rehearing of asset forfeiture cases.

  • Jgalt1975||

    Unless something happened this morning, Sandra Day O'Connor is still alive; she just isn't on the Court anymore.

  • colorblindkid||

    Sandra Day O'Connor never existed to a lot of people. It's amazing how many people I know who worship "the notorious RBG" (which is the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard) and think she was the first woman on the court, and have no idea who O'Connor is. She has been kicked out of the modern popular women's rights club because she was a moderate conservative.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Oops, my mistake.

    Dear Mr. Bahara,

    My statement indicating Justice O'Connor's death was made in ignorance, not malice.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Reading the link, the problem started when the petitioner's son consented to a police search of his vehicle while it was pulled over for a traffic violation. Cops found a safe in the trunk with two hundred grand in cash and a bill of sale for a house she had sold. The court decided that the bill of sale and likely the public record of the sale wasn't enough evidence to prove that the money wasn't really being used for drugs.

  • sarcasmic||

    The court decided that the bill of sale and likely the public record of the sale wasn't enough evidence to prove that the money wasn't really being used for drugs.

    This is why the burden of proof is supposed to be on the accuser. When the burden of proof is on the accused, the state can simply not accept an proof as good enough, and make it an impossible standard to meet.

  • double ham fisted||

    Civil asset forfeiture is a disgusting practice but would be much easier to swallow if the police would should some amount of shame in circumstances like this. When presented with the information that, to a semi-rational and honest person, would compel the return of the money. Instead, they keep the money because FYTW.

    It is hard for me to imagine a cop who went home that night and thought that they did something good and honest. Harder still to believe they felt good about it after more information came out.

    Of course I am an idiot.

  • sarcasmic||

    People do not seek out a job that gives them the power to ruin lives because they feel bad when they ruin someone's life.

  • SomeGuy||

    Yep this is the issue at hand. Power attracts the shittiest people in the world, which is why the USMC is a complete retard fest and will never change.

    The issues with the military and the police and politics are all the same. Power attracts horrible people.

  • creech||

    Couldn't the house buyer be located to see if he/she had paid in cash? Or the bank that converted the settlement check into cash? The cash didn't appear out of mid-air.

  • Bob K||

    Shouldn't the state have to show clear evidence that the money was being used for illegal purposes? These people shouldn't be required to prove their innocence when the state can't even be bothered to charge them with a crime, let alone prove it in court.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Or as I keep trying to tell my family, they can't search my car without a warrant because fuck them, that's why.

  • timbo||

    But the left says he bad. And they are never racists.

  • Raston Bot||

    "raises her due process arguments for the first time in this Court,"

    her counsel never raised a due process argument prior to cert to SCOTUS?? is that what he just said?

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Sounds like.

  • buybuydandavis||

    I'll take 8 more, please.

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