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Eric Holder, Civil Libertarian?

Attorney General Eric Holder Friday moved to limit a practice that I can’t even believe is happening. I have to be careful here, because it seems so unlikely, but Eric Holder has apparently struck a blow for freedom.

Under “civil forfeiture” laws, police are permitted to seize your property – a practice called “adoption” – without a warrant and then make you prove – under, I suppose, the theory of the presumption of guilt – that you own it and deserve it back. Holder ended the ability of local police departments to make the seizures under federal law, which will diminish the practice, though not entirely eliminate it.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The practice has brought in an astonishing $3 billion since 2008, covering about 55,000 seizures. Many of the targets are small businesses caught unfairly in some prosecution maw without the legal means to fight back.

According to the Institute for Justice, which tracks and litigates civil-forfeiture cases, 80% of people whose property is seized by the feds are never charged with a crime. The funds gathered by state and local law enforcement often exceed annual operating budgets, creating incentives for police to take property first, answer questions later.

The Washington Post did an investigation which found widespread abuse and injustice:

The Post found that local and state police routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to warrantless searches and seized large amounts of cash without evidence of wrongdoing. The law allows such seizures and forces the owners to prove their property was legally acquired in order to get it back.

Police spent the seizure proceeds with little oversight, in some cases buying luxury cars, high-powered weapons and military-grade gear such as armored cars, according to an analysis of Justice Department data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

I can’t tell you exactly why Holder did this. The last time I got inside his head, I saw too much scary stuff, and I refuse to go back. Reportedly, there was political pressure from both sides of the aisle.

Whatever the cause, great job, Mr. Holder.

14 Responses to Eric Holder, Civil Libertarian?

  1. I can promise you AIG Holder did not due this for freedom or constitutional rights. The civil forfeiture laws are aimed at the street level criminal. This is just pay back to them.

    Don’t get me wrong, the practice is wrong due to the lack of due process. John Oliver did a great piece on his HBO Show.

  2. I have a friend who lives in the DC area. She’s a widow and in her 70’s. She managed to escape the regime in Cuba in her late teens and made it to this country, which she absolutely loves, and is a rock-solid conservative. She is a piano teacher, and often was paid in cash, which she dutifully kept track of before taking it to the bank. The IRS swooped in and seized her money. Fortunately, she found an attorney who was just itching to take on such a case, and she got her funds back, but not before she went through hell. She now insists that all the parents pay her by check for the lessons for their children. The government refused to issue an apology to her for what they put her through.

  3. I am fairly sure this marks the first time in his tenure as AG where I have actually supported a Holder action. I, too, am breath-taken at his action, and confused by his libertarianesque motivation.

    But I will take it, at least for today. Even if he walks it back tomorrow.

  4. He has only stopped the local seizures, not the federal. Since all of the federal agencies have SWAT teams now, I imagine he is salivating at all the extra funds the feds will now have access to.

  5. The federal government can still seize your assets. Holder just did not want any of the state and local police departments getting a slice of this particular cash pie which he believes belongs to the totalitarian federal government. That’s why he did this and not out of some noble purpose like protecting Americans individual freedoms. The only great job Holder ever did was announcing his resignation. Hopefully some day in the not to distant future he will stand trial for his crimes.

  6. Maybe it was just an oversight? During a routine morning paper shuffle over there at the department of justice, some low ranker, put the outbox stuff in an inbox, which overloaded the inbox with already check and initialed action items. Thus causing the high level staffer to melt down. Thence a section meeting determination gave everyone the day off.

  7. There has to be some hidden agenda because Obama and Holder have proven they are pathological liars, despise liberty, and love criminals. Taxes will have to be higher to make up for the lost revenue to law enforcement and the feds so guess that is a win for the Democrats.