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Judge’s dismissal of claim contesting forfeiture was on ‘unsound’ ground

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sent a man’s claim contesting forfeiture of nearly $200,000 found in his home during a police search back to the District Court for reconsideration. The judges ruled that the ground for dismissal given by the judge, as well as the alternative ground argued by the government, were “unsound.”

In United States of America v. $196,969.00 United States Currency; Rodney Johnson, 12-3414, the state turned over the money found in Rodney Johnson’s home to the federal government for forfeiture proceedings. The money would then be split between the state and federal government if the proceedings were successful.

The Justice Department filed the forfeiture suit, alleging the cash found was the proceeds of illegal drug activity and therefore subject to forfeiture. Johnson filed a claim contesting the matter, which said “as a legal occupant of the house I have rights of ownership to all items found within the house.”

District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson ruled that Johnson’s claim did not comply fully with the requirements of Rule G(5)(a)(i), which requires the claim be signed under penalty of perjury; served on the government; and identify the specific property claimed, the claimant, and state his or her interest in the property. Magnus-Stinson relied on an unpublished District Court opinion out of Maryland that included additional requirements a claimant must state, none of which Johnson did, so she dismissed the claim. She did not address the issue of Article III standing.

“The government was free to respond with evidence that Johnson had no rights in the money but it could not simply demand that he prove, beyond the claim itself if compliant with Rule G(5), that he had standing – especially that he ‘prove’ Article III standing,” Judge Richard Posner wrote. “Imagine what it would do to federal litigation to require every plaintiff (or claimant in a forfeiture suit, who is like a plaintiff) not only to allege, but to prove, facts establishing the district court’s constitutional authority to decide his case. That is not required.”

He pointed out that Magnus-Stinson could have dismissed the claim before the government objected to it because it was either frivolous or obscure. This was Johnson’s second try at filing the claim, and it will be up to the District Court as to whether to give him a third try.

 

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  • Government Thieves
    So, if I save $100.00 cash per week, from my $500.00 per week paycheck, for 50 years, at which time, I will have saved $260,000.00, the government can raid my home and take my money, just by saying it is drug money! Shouldn't the government, have some kind of evidence of drugs, rather, than just saying we are the government and we will take anything you own, anytime we choose? Tyranny is upon us! If you don't know your rights, you don't have any!

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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