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Mark one up for the little people - Gov't loses

Well . . . not often does the "little guy" aka the Private Citizen win a property dispute with the Federal Government.  I think we are all familiar with the new way counties and states are financing their law enforcement agencies  with OPP (other peoples property).   


We all know that our police can seize our property and sell it, or seize our money and put it in their bank accounts to spend, if we violate drug laws.  Well . . . here is one they did not win.  It is now a common practice in every county in Iowa to seize and sell assets owned by those accused in a drug bust.  Even if the drug bust was fraudulent in many cases.  


Well in this case they did not win and could not sell and keep the proceeds from their  

motel business.


The property rights of private citizens (farmers included) continue to be diluted by governmental agencies and private groups seeking a "property right interest" in private property.


Cities and counties now have the right to take almost any property they want by exercising the "right of eminent domain", which in the past was used primarily for easements through farms or other property for utility easements, i.e. electricity, water, gas and telephone.  Those are the ones most of us are aware of, and most of us accept that such an easement in most cases results in a "greater good" being accomplished.


But recently . . . Cities have been condemning property and taking that property under the old legal rights granted under utility easements.   Now if someone wants to build a golf course on your farm . . . they may try to condemn that land to build a golf course which has a better tax base that bare farmland.


 Such is also the case involving older buildings in a city.  If a hotshot outfit comes to town, finds a site, and that outfit tells the City it will build a factory on the site, and provide employment for citizens . . . well,  then they stand a good chance of taking your property at a value determined by the City or government  body exercising that right.  


Of course my position is that we own our land or other property and it should be protected at all costs, including as was attempted in this case, where under a drug law, seizure of property enabled the seizing body to sell the property and keep the money, paying the true owners zero.  Adios Amigos.  Enjoy. John




U.S. Judge rules government cannot seize family-owned motel


NEW YORK | Fri Jan 25, 2013 9:04pm EST


(Reuters) - In a victory for property rights, a U.S. judge shot down a government effort to seize a family-owned motel in Tewksbury, Massachusetts.


The Justice Department sought forfeiture of the Motel Caswell, introducing evidence of its connection to 15 drug-related incidents between 1994 and 2008.


Russell Caswell, 69, and his wife, Patricia, 71, own the motel through a trust and he runs it. There is no contention anyone from the family has ever been involved in criminal activity, the judge said.


The government "has not met its burden in providing that the property is forfeitable," Magistrate Judge Judith Dein of U.S. District Court in Massachusetts wrote in a decision Thursday dismissing the civil forfeiture action.

"Punishing Mr. Caswell by forfeiting the motel obviously would not punish those engaged in the criminal conduct."


Dein, who heard the case in November without a jury, noted the government identified a limited number of incidents spread over years, none of which involved the motel owner or employees.


The judge said no one took steps to work with Caswell to reduce drug activity at the motel. She added that no effort was made to even warn about the possibility of forfeiture before the case was filed.


The case "is easily distinguishable from other cases where the 'draconian' result of forfeiture was found to be appropriate," the judge wrote in her decision.

The U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts said it was disappointed in the ruling and weighing options for appeal.


The case was "strictly a law enforcement effort to crack down on what was seen as a pattern of using the motel to further the commission of drug crimes for nearly three decades," the office said in a statement.


The 56-room budget motel rents out about 14,000 rooms a year, serving semi-permanent and transient guests.


The ruling "is a huge win for property owners everywhere," said Darpana Sheth, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, in Arlington, Virginia, a libertarian law firm that represented the motel with local counsel.


Sheth said the case exposed the injustices of forfeiture actions, which she said are routinely brought against innocent people.


"Civil forfeiture laws provide a direct financial incentive for law enforcement to seize and take people's property," she said. "Hopefully this decision will prevent prosecutorial overreach."


The case is United State of America v. 434 Main Street, Tewksbury, Massachusetts, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, No. 09-11635JGD



3 Replies
bruce MN

Re: Mark one up for the little people - Gov't loses

Thanks for putting that up.  Not sure how strong a precedential case it will turn out to be in so far as being ultimately useful in other eminent domain determinations but it may well be in terms of consideration of loosely applied standards  and tangential evidence.


That seemed like a he!! of a stretch.  Whomever carried it ought to have their position evaluated.


Re: Mark one up for the little people - Gov't loses

Bruce - I was looking for my daily topic to post here.  I ran across this one, and found it kinda interesting, because most people do not have any idea what is going on with seizures.  I agree with you that it may not be a real big case, since there was no jury, but at least there was one Federal Judge in this country, who agreed with the person being victimized by that law.  John

Senior Advisor

Seizure ought to require a conviction of the owner.

If the intent is to punish wrongdoers, the punishment may be exceptionally excessive for the infraction that occured. I wonder what happens when a bankster holds first mortgage on the property.