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7th Circuit offers alternatives to destroying guns

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a District judge's order that a defendant's guns be destroyed instead of returned to him, ruling that there were other alternatives than what the District Court considered.

In United States of America v. Leroy F. Miller, No. 09-2256, Leroy Miller appealed the decision to have the federal government compensate him for the 34 guns taken following his conviction of aiding and abetting the possession of firearms by a felon. Miller had asked for his guns to be returned because the government failed to timely file an order for forfeiture.

Miller can't possess his guns until his sentence is served. The District Court declined to allow a relative or friend to hold the guns for Miller because it would leave Miller in constructive possession of them. He then argued for the government to sell the weapons and give him the money, but the District Court instead ordered the guns destroyed and Miller reimbursed under the Tucker Act.

"It is hard to see how either the United States or Miller can be made better off by replacing an actual sale with litigation in which the parties will offer expert evaluations of the weapons' market value, and the Treasury will be out of pocket that amount (because destroying the guns does not produce any revenue to cover the cost of a judgment under the Tucker Act)," wrote Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook.

The District Court made that decision because it believed all other alternatives were unlawful, but the 7th Circuit saw otherwise. Miller could actually possess one of the guns because it is an antique. To solve the issue for the other guns, the Circuit judges proposed several options. The guns could be gifted to a friend or relative who would then be informed if they return the guns to Miller, they could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting unlawful possession, wrote Chief Judge Easterbrook.

The firearms could be transferred in a trust to a reliable trustee that will not return the guns to Miller unless he is legally able to possess them. The U.S. could also store the guns while Miller is unable to have them, the chief judge wrote.

"If the United States does not want to sell them for his account, then it must offer Miller some other lawful option," such as the ones listed by the Circuit Court, Chief Judge Easterbrook wrote.

The Circuit Court remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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