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Congress Working to Defund AG Sessions’ Asset Forfeiture Initiative

Congress Working to Defund AG Sessions’ Asset Forfeiture Initiative

Amash: “When the government takes people’s property without due process, it’s a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments”

In a puzzling move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month that the Department of Justice would be ramping up asset forfeiture.

Mary wrote at the time:

Civil forfeiture remains a controversial issue in America since it’s “a process by which the government can take and sell your property without ever convicting, or even charging, you with a crime.” The procedures are civil, which means defendants do not receive the same protections given to criminal defendants.

It’s one of the few issues that garners bipartisan support.

That bipartisan support is now even more evident as Congress moves to defund asset forfeiture.

The Hill reports:

Next week, the House of Representatives will consider an appropriations bill, H.R. 3354, which will authorize spending for the Department of Justice for the upcoming fiscal year. Some members, Republican and Democratic alike, have submitted amendment to the bill that would defund the directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ramp up the use of civil asset forfeiture.

Sessions is a vocal advocate of civil asset forfeiture, the process by which local law enforcement can permanently seize property or money that is suspected to have a connection to a crime. During an April 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, then-Sen. Sessions was less than sympathetic toward a witness, Russ Caswell, whose hotel was wrongly seized when local law enforcement claimed that it had facilitated illicit activity.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are working to cripple Sessions’ asset forfeiture efforts via H. R. 3354.

The Hill continues:

Sessions was criticized for the directive. “Back in May I encouraged the Department of Justice to review its policies on civil asset forfeiture in light of increasing indications from the Supreme Court that this practice is constitutionally suspect,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “Instead of revising forfeiture practices in a manner to better protect Americans’ due process rights, the DOJ seems determined to lose in court before it changes its policies for the better.”

Similarly, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) noted that adoptive seizures “have created perverse incentives in the past that jeopardized the rights of law abiding citizens.”

Thankfully, four amendments have been submitted to the House Rules Committee for consideration that would defund Sessions’ directive. It’s not clear which amendment if any will be considered when the consolidated appropriations bill, H.R. 3354, reaches the House floor likely late next week.

Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) have submitted separate amendments that would prohibit the Department of Justice from using funds for adoptive seizures. Two bipartisan amendments, one submitted by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and another by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), would prevent funding from being used to implement Sessions’ directive.

The Amash and Davidson amendments are more comprehensive and are not limited to Sessions’ directive. In fact, these amendments would leave the minor safeguards provided under Sessions’ changes in place. The bipartisan amendments aren’t as comprehensive, although they’re still better than the status quo.

Still, while these amendments are a step in the right direction, Congress will eventually have to settle the concerns over civil asset forfeiture. Legislation has been introduced to increase the standard at the federal level to clear and convincing evidence and provide more protections for property owners who contest a seizure in federal court.

Republican lawmakers see asset forfeiture as a violation of Americans’ rights, and FreedomWorks issued a statement against the questionable practice.

Reason reports:

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a vocal critic of asset forfeiture, introduced an amendment that would block the Justice Department from funding any of the activities prohibited by a 2015 directive from former attorney general Eric Holder limiting the program.

“When the government takes people’s property without due process, it’s a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments—and it’s theft,” Amash says in a statement to Reason. “I’m writing a bill to end civil asset forfeiture throughout the United States. In the meantime, my amendment will prevent state and local law enforcement from teaming up with the federal government to sidestep state laws that restrict these unconstitutional takings.”

. . . . The amendments were first noted by FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group that has opposed civil asset forfeiture.

“Let’s be clear. Congress has to pass comprehensive legislation to reform federal forfeiture laws, which have been abused and will continue to be abused under Attorney General Sessions’ directive,” FreedomWorks vice president of legislative affairs Jason Pye tells Reason. “But an amendment prohibiting the use of funds from being used to carry out adoptive seizures is something that FreedomWorks will wholeheartedly support. It will be a positive step forward to address the issue until a bill like the DUE PROCESS Act, FAIR Act or some other yet to be introduced legislation is passed.”

Sessions, for his part, is focused on the asset forfeiture of “criminal gangs” and “drug traffickers.”   Being in a gang or being a drug trafficker, however, does not render one devoid of Constitutional rights, and in this, I think Sessions is misguided.  We can’t suspend due process for gangs and traffickers without it affecting, as asset forfeiture so often does, non-criminal Americans.


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About [email protected] time. Pity it took until Pres Trump was in office to get the Congress Critters together to get rid of this truly insane initiative.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to rabidfox. | September 2, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    And his own Attorrny General is fighting it!

      Morning Sunshine in reply to The Friendly Grizzly. | September 3, 2017 at 12:48 am

      Maybe that is the only reason Congress is willing to fight against it? Oh, Trump et al think this is a good thing? We must fight it!

        Do you think it is a good idea for the government to be able to seize your property without ever even accusing you, much less convicting you, of a crime? Are you familiar with The Bill of Rights?

    Milhouse in reply to rabidfox. | September 3, 2017 at 1:18 am

    It didn’t “take until Pres Trump was in office to get the Congress Critters together to get rid of this truly insane initiative”. This truly insane initiative didn’t exist before Pres Trump was in office. The problem existed, but at a lower level; what’s spurring Congressional action now is Sessions’s “truly insane initiative”, as you put it, to make the problem much much worse — in Sessions’ own words, “to develop policies to increase forfeitures”.

How disgusting that a “conservative” administration would be pushing for more of this unconstitutional garbage. But as we discussed during the primaries, Trump has always been a big fan of seizing property from others, so I guess it should be no surprise that his AG pick would feel the same.

Nice to see the Congress asserting it’s power… I guess the scabs on their knees from the Obama years are finally starting to heal.

    “…Trump has always been a big fan of seizing property from others…”

    Name one.

      notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to | September 2, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Don’t you think these oh so obvious trolls could grow a single, new brain cell?

      NO. Because their heads are stuck up Hillary’s………..

        Troll? I’ve been commenting here since this blog started. I’m merely pointing out an issue that was hotly debated here during the primaries. Many of us who were skeptical of Trump saw his history of imminent domain abuse as a warning sign. But if you want to sling ad hominem, knock yourself out. I imagine the cognitive dissonance is deafening at this point.

      Name one? Sure, how about Vera Coking?

      And some others:

      And another:

      We can’t pretend this stuff didn’t happen and that it’s not part of who Trump is. FWIW, I am still happy with my vote since Hillary would have been an absolute and total disaster for our republic. That said, we do ourselves no favors in denying stuff like this. Instead, we just look like fawning cultists, and I know I’m not that. I don’t think you are, either.

        Eminent domain is “seizing property?” What was illegal? (In the story you cited to, the widow did NOT lose her home.)

        Curious: did it offend you equally when when obama – literally – seized grazing land from ranchers who are a key in our food supply chain? Or when hillary clinton sold influence to every nation adverse to the United States when she was secretary of state? Or when democrat Chris Dodd ripped off the country for millions then scurried off to retire in Ireland? Or when it was discovered that Wasserman SSchulz sold out our country to Pakistani criminals? Or when the GOPe sold us out – completely – and is working diligently to enable the democrat agenda? Or when John McCain continues to trash our president overseas?

        Trump was a real estate developer, not a robber baron. He broke no laws. He was a tough, but fair dealer. This kind of ‘accusation’ is nothing but fodder for ignorant useful idiots.

        What ‘stuff’ can’t you pretend didn’t happen?

          Or where obama AG Eric Holder ran guns?
          Or where obama AG Loretta Lynch called for street violence?
          Or when the GOPe stands by and watches the democrats hire a giant special prosecutor team to investigate the president on a bogus charge of conspiring with the russians to win an election?
          Or when Facebook’s mark schmuckerberg participates in oppression of free speech?
          Or when Google’s larry page participates in oppression of free speech?

          Not bashing Trump for being a tough, but honest real estate developer hardly makes us ‘fawning cultists.’ It makes us ‘undistracted’ by the left’s b.s., and keeping our focus on the idea that the left is trying to imprison us in a fascist dictatorship – literally.

          What’s legal is not always moral. At one point it was legal to own another human.

          Kelo is warmly embraced by Der Donald.

          Scalia hated it, as do all conservatives.

          When Der Donald tried to take Mrs. Coking’s property by the use of a morally and legally bankrupt use of government force, he was called out by Michelle Malkin, among other conservatives.

          So he attacked Malkin and other conservatives. It’s who he is.


          did it offend you equally when when obama – literally – seized grazing land from ranchers who are a key in our food supply chain?

          He did no such thing. Stop making things up.

          Or where obama AG Loretta Lynch called for street violence?


          Yes of course imminent domain is another form of property seizure. Do you understand the English language? The fact that it is not illegal is what makes it disgusting. Like civil asset forfeiture programs there are times when it is legit but both programs have been bastardized by government and their cronies (Trump et al) and are now way, way past tyrannical.

          Here is the thing:. I too voted for Trump because the alternative was so bad. As I said then, I went into the voting booth and took a bite out of that shit sandwich. And now I’m grateful for the good things he does, but it doesn’t mean I will slavishly cheer on every inane thing he tweets or says or does. When he does stupid shit people need to push back.

          No, Paul, eminent (not “imminent”) domain is not seizure, because the owner gets just compensation. When assets are seized the owner gets nothing. Both are usually wrong, but there’s a big difference between them.

          Yeah, “spell check” on this browser has a mind of it’s own… we really need an edit feature. Hint, hint:

          I understand that property owners are compensated, but “fair value” is eminently arguable. Understood that there are instances where it is actually in the best interest of the community for property use to change, but my point is that this is abused quite often.

          And the property is still seized; if you don’t want to relinquish your property then “fair value” compensation by the state might be a very bitter pill.

          Yes civil asset forfeiture is a much more gross violation as there is no guarantee of due process. But both of these programs are abused way too often.

          And no, I’m not a lawyer so I suppose you’re probably right re: the legal definition of “seizure.” But in the dictionary definition and the world that the rest of us live in, when the Sheriff kicks you out of your house and the state writes you a check for an amount you didn’t want to sell for, your property has been “seized” and you are truly screwed.

      Too much #realism. T-rump cultists can’t stand the heresy, as often noted before.

‘Silent Bill’ is still on the job? Does anybody know where he is?

This guy is becoming the Howard Hughes of attorney generals.

Don’t be so stupid Fine! The keft don’t need no stinking evidence of wrong doing otherwise if they did they’d also be very, veeeeeeeery quiet pretty much about everything!!!!

A conservation of principles is positive progress.

Defund? How about ban? Ban sounds good.

4th armored div | September 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Sessions is a loser, big time. his claim to fame was backing DJT in the primaries.

he gave up senate sinecure to be AG but he is acting like a despot instead of a protector of the conservative notions of the constitution.
time for him to go, he is certainly not protecting Trump or the constitution. he has lost his marbles and can’t find them.

Amash: “When the government takes people’s property without due process, it’s a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments”

Agree with Amash 1000%! AG Sessions please reconsider your position Asset Forfeiture Initiative .

Granny Clampett creating more roadblocks and diversion so he does not have to do anything about the rampant illegalities of Obama , Clinton Coney and Lynch.
The Man needs to resign and get someone with some Can Do in their back