Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes Magazine highlight how as U.S. Attorney, Loretta Lynch seized assets of citizens subject to investigation, but not guilty of any crimes
Also, a specific set of such forfeitures carried out by Lynch's office might well have been in violation of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act.
Similar questionable asset forfeitures by the Brooklyn DA's Office were not moved upon by Lynch, as U.S. Attorney over Brooklyn
Not only her own office's apparently record-breaking seizures of civil assets, but a failure to properly scrutinize apparent violations by other local prosecutors in Lynch's jurisdiction could prove troublesome at Senate hearings
According to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, "Prosecutors have taken a yen to civil forfeiture laws, which they’ve used to shore up state and municipal budgets with sums from confiscated private property. One happy joiner is Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, whose U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York has been an enthusiastic grabber of private assets. *** Prosecutors love the practice because it allows them to seize cash and property before the target is charged with a crime. [Originally i]ntended to be used against drug dealers and their ill-gotten gains, the law has become an all-purpose cash machine for police departments and prosecutors who often make forfeiture calls based not on the suspected crime or the perpetrator but on the desirability of the available goods to be seized...." (See ""Loretta Lynch’s Money Pot - Someone should ask the AG nominee about the Hirsch brothers" WSJ REVIEW & OUTLOOK, 11/21/14, Wall Street Journal [http://online.wsj.com/articles/loretta-lynchs-money-pot-1416615114]).
The Wall Street Journal went on to say that Loretta Lynch’s U.S. Attorney's Office runs a major forfeiture operation that, according to the Justice Department, brought in more than $113 million in civil actions from 123 cases between 2011 and 2013. The WSJ specifically mentioned the plight of Jeffrey, Richard and Mitch Hirsch, three brothers in Long Island.
The Hirsch brothers run a small business that deals in small amounts of cash, a fact that the government surely noticed, since they were never charged with a crime. But more than two years after the government grabbed the hundreds of thousands of dollars, none of it has been returned. According to the Institute for Justice, which is representing the family in a lawsuit, the government has also denied the Hirsches a prompt hearing on the forfeiture, putting it in violation of the 2000 Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act.
The Forbes magazine folks also picked up on the story. According to Forbes, "...if Ms. Lynch’s office had bothered to inquire about Bi-County’s business, they would have found that it is clean. But they did not bother to inquire. Under civil asset forfeiture, authorities can take money (or other property) and then dare the owner to battle through legal obstacles to get it back. To do that, the owner must prove innocence. *** Charge someone with a crime and the burden of proving guilt is on the government, but confiscate property under civil asset forfeiture and the government keeps the spoils unless the owner is able to prove his innocence. That is not the way our system of justice is supposed to work. *** Was this just a mistake, perhaps? Evidently not, because Lynch’s office has not seen fit to even file the required notice that it has taken the Hirsch’s money. Now that those inveterate opponents of government overreach, the Institute for Justice, has filed a case to force the government’s hand (a case with the strange name In the Matter of the Seizure of $446,651.11) the brothers might get their money back. Eventually...." (See ""Loretta Lynch Has No Problem With Civil Asset Forfeiture -- And That's A Problem" by George Leef, 11/25/2014, Forbes/ forbes.com [http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2014/11/25/loretta-lynch-has-no-problem-with-civil-asset-forfeiture-and-thats-a-problem/]).
Asset forfeiture is a trend across the country. Furthermore, under a program known as equitable sharing, state and local law enforcement agencies also get a piece of the federal civil forfeiture action. Between 2003 and 2011, annual payments from that program rose to $450 million from $218 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.
ALSO A LOCAL VARIANT ON THE ASSET FORFEITURE THEME MIGHT BE ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR THE U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE
The following moderated anonymous comment was published on November 13, 2014 in the thread following my November 12, 2014 post, "Why Loretta Lynch is the wrong choice by President Obama to be Attorney General of the U.S. — Part 2." In significant part, the moderated anonymous comment said the following: "... In the EDNY, Loretta Lynch has been one of the biggest proponents of civil asset forfeiture wherin the government can legally seize the property of its citizens. It is frought with many problems. I think Lynch has claimed over 900 million in seized assets. There is no reason at all to think this is not legitimate according to the federal statutes presently in place. One of the things the Money Laundering Bureau under Hynes never wanted to do was to participate in what is called the "federal adoption" of assets. In this way the D.A.'s office would share any funds they seized with the EDNY. The Manhattan D.A.'s office does this all the time with the SDNY. The folks in Money laundering [...] wanted to keep it in the office so as to reap the benefits of secrecy. It is one of the reasons we never ever reported tax crimes to the NY Tax Commission which we were obligated to do. If we reported to the Commission then [the office] had to share in the "take". By not reporting, we were able to shake down the defendants for more funds - preferable cash. It was done frequently and with much financial success. These are financial crimes allegedly committed during Hynes tenure that Loretta Lynchs' office knows about. It is surprising that she has not more vigorously gone after Hynes on this. Other malfeasance was brought to her office's attention such as allegations of mismanaged property throughout Brooklyn and coerceing law enforcement to lie and sign false affidavits under oath. Perhaps these are small ethical matters for the EDNY. But the larger issues of theft of public money seems to be something that she should be going after with vigor...."
LORETTA LYNCH MUST BE QUESTIONED BY SENATE ABOUT THESE MATTERS
Both the Wall Street Journal and Forbes seem to agree that when the Senate holds confirmation hearings on Lynch's nomination to be Obama's second U.S. Attorney General, an important question would be --- what, if anything, she might do as Attorney General to protect the American people from being trampled by rampaging law enforcement officials engaged in high handed activities, including but not limited to civil asset forfeiture by prosecutors.