November 5, 2014

Let’s attack Asset Forfeiture in the Supreme Court

We want to file an amicus brief attacking asset forfeiture in the Supreme Court. We need your help to do that. Here are the issues at stake…

  • Federal officials are seizing assets from defendants.
    These assets are completely unrelated to the criminal charges against them.
    This robs defendants of the resources they need to defend themselves.
    Most, if not all, choose public defenders — or, more accurately, State-provided plea-bargainers.
  • We look at the law empathetically. So…

Imagine that you are a healthcare services provider. You have been charged with Medicare fraud. Imagine then, that the Feds froze ALL of your assets, including money from another business you own. This business is unrelated to the alleged fraud.

How would you pay to defend yourself?

This is what happened to Sila Luis. And her case (Sila Luis v United States) has been submitted to the Supreme Court. We want to file an amicus brief, which will hopefully convince the Court to take this case.

And there’s a decent chance they will hear the case, because…

  1. There are conflicting decisions on this issue from lower courts. That contradiction needs to be resolved.
  2. The Luis case ruling could vastly EXPAND asset forfeiture, if it’s allowed to stand, OR reduce the scope of asset forfeiture if the Court rules in favor of Luis.

We filed a previous brief on this issue, last year, in the Kaley case. We lost. But this doesn’t mean the arguments we made had no influence. Sometimes arguments have to be made repeatedly before they can have an impact. This is our chance to do that.

Even more important, we were INVITED to submit a brief in this case, because the lawyer for Luis read our Kaley brief!

He was particularly high on our historical analysis in Kaley, and was hoping we’d make the same kind of contextual argument.

In a piece titled How Prosecutors Hijack Grand Juries, you can read an interesting summary about our Kaley brief, highlighting the historical process under which Grand Juries have become a mere shadow of their intent and purpose. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the present sorry state of affairs began with the War on Drugs.

Please recognize what’s at stake…

  • If prosecutors can prevent defendants from defending themselves, this forces people to accept plea bargains, even when they’re innocent.
  • Even worse, such plea bargains can include the loss of all the seized assets. This is legalized extortion.

Imagine if this happened to you. As we pointed out in our summary on the Kaley brief

The conviction rate is 91.6% on federal “crimes.” 97.6% of these “convictions” were actually guilty pleas. Many of these pleas happened because the defendants could no longer resist after their assets were seized.

In other words…

YOU or someone you love could be COERCED to forgo a defense and cut a deal!

Justices Roberts, Sotomayor, and Breyer have already written that seized assets must be traced to the charged crime. This is actually a long-standing Constitutional principle.

And the holdings of the Eleventh Circuit are so extraordinary, that perhaps these justices can persuade their colleagues to return to this principle.

We can help them persuade their colleagues if we can provide additional supporting arguments in the form of an amicus brief. We want to use our brief to attack the idea that an accused person has to prove that the property she possesses belongs to her. Our argument will focus on property rights.

And we believe our team is UNIQUELY QUALIFIED by…

  • Writing the Kaley brief.
  • The fact that Luis’s attorney requested we submit a “Kaley-esque” brief.
  • Experience in analogous cases like Antoine Jones, where we made a property rights argument, and we expect to make similar arguments in Luis.

Please recall that our Jones brief appeared to be quite influential in the winning outcome, redirecting 44-years worth of precedent!

But this Luis brief cannot happen — that is, we cannot take advantage of this unique competence — without the necessary funding. Please help us fund this amicus brief.

  • To do this, we need someone, right now, to contribute $1,000 or more. We need others to give $500 or $200, or to start monthly pledges of $25 or more. For anyone who does this, we’ll send you an official, Supreme Court copy of the amicus brief (once it’s completed; it’s due later this month).
  • ALL donors who make a contribution will be listed, in a Consent Chronicle about the brief (unless they request privacy on the donor form). We will ALSO send them a pdf copy, direct to their email inbox.
  • To be recognized, your donation should be made to the Downsize DC Foundation, which makes it TAX-DEDUCTIBLE if you itemize.
  • Use this link, regardless if you want to give by cash, check, or credit card.

If you know of someone who is very interested in asset forfeiture, please share this message with them!

Thank you for your generous support of this project,

Jim Babka
Downsize DC Foundation
(home of the Zero Aggression Project, coming in January)

P.S. If you were in a contest, would you want your opponent to pick your team? That’s the principle that’s really at stake in Sila Luis v United States. In an adversarial setting such as our criminal justice system, government lawyers should not have the power to decide if the defendant they are trying to send to jail has competent counsel. You can make a difference by making a generous, tax-deductible contribution, today.

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