We were one of the few reporting sites that showed restraint and skepticism regarding Holder’s announcement of forfeiture “reform.” Yes, it’s a good step, but it’s not a solution.
Jacob Sullum continues to report: Despite Holder’s Forfeiture Reform, Cops Still Have A License to Steal
But I worry that the widespread confusion about what Holder did will undermine reform efforts by creating the false impression that the problem has been solved. Legislation is necessary not only to prevent cops from evading state reforms but to give property owners more protection under state and federal laws. Ideally, legislators should require a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture and keep cops from getting part of the proceeds, a policy that perverts their priorities and fosters corruption. It would be a shame if such reforms were killed by complacency.
The Supreme Court’s massive blind spot – Radley Balko with some outstanding reporting on just how out-of-touch the Supreme Court is with what actually goes on in the criminal justice system.
Whatâ€™s missing from that career trajectory is any real experience in criminal law. Of our current Supreme Court lineup, only two justices â€” Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor â€” have significant experience with criminal law. Both are former prosecutors. Alito spent time as an assistant U.S. attorney and a U.S. attorney. But even that misses a huge percentage of the criminal justice system: The overwhelming percentage of criminal cases in America are at the state and local level. Only Sotomayor has real experience with a local, day-to-day criminal justice system, and even that experience isnâ€™t all that overwhelming: She spent four and a half years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, thirty years ago.
Speaking of Sotomayor, she seems to be one of the only Justices even aware that there’s a Fourth Amendment problem…
Sotomayor to Justice Department Lawyer: ‘We Can’t Keep Bending the Fourth Amendment to the Resources of Law Enforcement’ — Sonia Sotomayor stands up for the Fourth Amendment in drug-sniffing dog case.
Sotomayor went so far as to suggest that the Court’s recent Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was flying off the rails due to its pro-police deference. Here’s a sample of what Sotomayor told the government lawyer:
I have a real fundamental question, because this line drawing is only here because we’ve now created a Fourth Amendment entitlement to search for drugs using dogs, whenever anybody’s stopped. Because that’s what you’re proposing. And is that really what the Fourth Amendment should permit?
…we can’t keep bending the Fourth Amendment to the resources of law enforcement. Particularly when this stop is notâ€”is not incidental to the purpose of the stop. It’s purely to help the police get more criminals, yes. But then the Fourth Amendment becomes a useless piece of paper.