In exciting news today, the Supreme Court ruled that the states may not take “excessive” civil forfeiture (it was already unconstitutional for the federal government to do so). Every year the federal government takes about 1 to 2 billion dollars in civil forfeiture; figures for the states are not easily available. There are endless examples of people having their property wrongfully stolen by the police through civil forfeiture, and hopefully this decision will provide a recourse in the most egregious cases to argue in court that the property taken was excessive. This is a small but welcome relief from the burden of civil forfeiture, and optimistically may be a stepping stone to eliminating it entirely.
Here is the decision:
The majority decision was written by Ginsburg and joined by everyone except Thomas; there are also concurring decisions by Gorsuch and Thomas. (Thus continues a tradition of Gorsuch concurring with himself.)
Of interest is Gorsuch’s, the shortest at five sentences. First he agrees with Ginsburg; then he cites Thomas a bunch and agrees with him; then he says he doesn’t know whether Ginsburg or Thomas was right but since they got to the same conclusion, he may as well concur as well. As part of his ongoing efforts to pretend to be an originalist he manages to use the word “original” twice in five sentences, compared to none in Ginsburg’s 9 pages or Thomas’s 13 pages.
I expect Friday’s episode of Opening Arguments will have more to say about Gorsuch’s decision and how it somehow opposes Chevron deference – if so I might add some better informed commentary then.
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