The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has issued an unanimous opinion overturning a district court that had forfeited $271,080 in cash seized by the federal government, even though owners brothers, Pedro and Abraham Cruz-Hernandez, were never criminally charged. Pedro and Abraham contested the forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a) and submitted affidavits attesting that the money is their joint savings. The entire panel rejected the decision of United States District Judge Joan B. Gottschall to uphold the abusive forfeiture. Judge Diane Wood (left) wrote the opinion below for the Court. I wrote a column on the increasing use of our roads by police to mine for cash and property to seize from vehicles. We have also discussed this trend in various blog columns.
383rd District Judge Mike Herrera apparently sees nothing wrong in his action that led to a sanctioning by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct. Herrera kept his own divorce case on his docket for months but insists that it “made no difference” that the case was before him even though he was one of the litigants. In reality, there may have not been any action taken but Herrera’s utter failure to see the conflict (and appearance) issues is rather shocking. The case itself shows a real mess in representation and conflicting accounts.
There is an interesting ruling out of the Florida Supreme Court where a trial court’s order of contempt was overturned due to the failure of the trial court to afford a lawyer for potential juror Noel Plank. He was held in contempt for allegedly appearing at court drunk. The exchange with the Court is detailed in the opinion, which reaches an interesting distinction between direct and non-direct criminal contempt.
Turkey continues its plunge into authoritarianism under President Tayyip Erdogan. So as to leave no doubt about his tyrannical aspirations, our close ally Erdogan is seeking to change the definition of a terrorist to include anyone he deems to be “supporters” of opponents or listed groups, including members of parliament, civil liberties activists and of course journalists. In in a televised speech this week he declared “democracy,, freedom, and the rule of law have absolutely no value any longer.”
The D.C. legal community was rocked today with news that Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts has resigned after being accused of a sexual assault when he served as a prosecutor in a high-profile case 35 years ago. The alleged victim was a teenage witness who has not sued Roberts.
President Barack Obama today surprised many by nominating the moderate Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Merrick Garland. Garland is unlikely to thrill liberals. He is fairly conservative on criminal cases and tends to favor government interests. Conservatives are not going to like his vote to move to reconsider the case that became the historic Heller decision that recognized the individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. However, Garland moves virtually everything off the table for the Republicans. While a moderate, he is as far right as a Democratic president could go.
I will be testifying Tuesday afternoon before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law of the Committee on the Judiciary
in the United States House of Representatives. The hearing is entitled “The Chevron Doctrine: Constitutional and Statutory Questions in Judicial Deference to Agencies”. The hearing will be held in Room 2141 (Rayburn House Office Building) and begin at 1:30 PM. My written testimony is below