One Thing Both Liberals And Conservatives Seem To Agree On, But Not The White House…
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Marking Her Return To The Supreme Court, Writing The Opinion In An Unanimous Ruling
The case involves a very hot topic right now: asset forfeiture. The Court ruled the state of Indiana could not keep and sell a $42,000 Land Rover seized by police from a small-time heroin dealer there. The state had argued they were entitled to the vehicle and whatever they could get for it, on the grounds it had been used to transport drugs. Since the maximum possible financial penalty in a case of this kind is $10,000, the Court said they couldn’t automatically do that, under the 8th Amendment’s excessive-fines clause. Why is this so important? Because forfeiture has become a big business for a good number of states and municipalities. And some state and local governments have been known to keep or sell the property and cash they seize even if the person arrested is never charged.
Here’s a copy of the Ginsburg authored decision. As part of it, she notes:
“Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.”
All this is against the backdrop of the White House identifying forfeitures in federal cases as a source for funds for Trump’s wall. Trump can at least partially thank former Attorney General Jeff Sessions for that, whom he otherwise reviles. Sessions was a strong proponent of vastly expanding asset forfeiture. Heck, Trump recently said again that he’d like to see the U.S. adopt the death penalty for drug dealers, like they have in China. So those drug dealers should probably be happy all he’s doing for now is taking their cars and money and putting it toward his wall. In fact, after Trump declared a national emergency to get his wall built, funds from asset forfeiture were one of the first sources the White House said it might tap.