United States v. Funds in the Amount of $574,840, et al., 19 F.3d 648 (7th Cir. 2013):Law enforcement seized five stashes of cash from clients’ apartment, vehicles, and storage units, suspecting that clients had been engaged in drug trafficking and the cash was the proceeds. The state of Illinois prosecuted clients, and the federal government pursued the cash in a forfeiture action. Clients claimed the cash in federal court, and the federal district court threw clients out of the case at the government’s urging, saying they did not have constitutional standing to litigate. Clients appealed and the federal court of appeals reversed and remanded, finding that the court below was wrong to find that clients did not have standing to defend a case against cash taken from them, and that the lower court should have stayed the case when clients had asked, instead of allowing the government to conduct discovery while clients could not.
United States v. $1,026,781.61 in Funds from Florida Capital Bank (Central District of California Nov. 20, 2012):
Federal authorities seized a bank account with client's life savings and his home, alleging that the properties were obtained as a result of his allegedly murdering his former wife and long time partner while the two were on a cruise off of the coast of Italy in summer of 2006 - the federal government claimed that the properties were thus subject to forfeiture; but upon our motion, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the clients (husband and current wife), finding that there was insufficient evidence to require a trial, and ordered all of the property returned.
United States v. Grossi (9th Circuit Court of Appeals June 1, 2012)
Client was convicted of maintaining a warehouse in Oakland that he owned and which his tenants used to grow marijuana. The warehouse was sold and the proceeds were substituted as the property at issue, and as part of his criminal conviction, the trial court ordered that the client forfeit his entire interest in the warehouse (the sale proceeds). However, the client had continued to pay a $100,000 loan from his sister on the warehouse after the bust and eventually paid off the loan during the pendency of the criminal case. The prosecutors were steadfast in their efforts to refuse that the client receive an amount equal to that of the sister's loan that the client paid off - of which there was no doubt the government would have had to return to the sister if the client defaulted on his obligation to his sister. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals finally ordered that the $100,000 loan "represents [the sister's] interest and, therefore, was never properly part of the property subject to forfeiture in the first place" and that amount must be refunded to the client.
People of the State of California v. $91,699.85 in U.S. Currency (CA Sup. Court, Santa Cruz County, 2011):
Law enforcement seized $100,000 that had been paid by a young woman to bail out two friends. The State claimed that the three were involved in selling marijuana illegally, and claimed that the money was subject to forfeiture for its supposed connection to marijuana trafficking. During the course of the litigation, the young woman tragically died; yet, the State insisted on keeping the money and pursuing forfeiture after the young women’s surviving mother made claim as the rightful heir to the property. Our firm filed motion papers, and the court granted our motion and ordered the funds returned to the mother. Read the transcript of the hearing here.
United States v. $644,860 in U.S. Currency (Central District of Illinois, July 29, 2008) Law enforcement seized well over a half a million dollars in cash from a vehicle and a drug dog supposedly detected the odor of drugs on the money. The government claimed that inconsistent statements and other evidence supported that the funds were connected to drug trafficking and therefore subject to forfeiture. Upon our written motion, the Court granted summary judgment and ordered the money returned to our clients.
United States v. $191,910.00 in U.S. Currency , 16 F.3d 1051 (9th Cir. 1994)
This was a seminal case that led to a sea change in the way that forfeiture cases were looked at throughout the U.S. and which inspired the new Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA) of 2000. David was a member of NACDL's Forfeiture Task Force and that group was instrumental in the creation of CAFRA, with the assistance of House of Representatives member, Henry Hyde. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently noted that the forfeiture statute that existed before CAFRA was an “aberration” that had “been criticized repeatedly by the courts and legal commentators” because it violated Constitutional Due Process.
A sampling of some of the cases our firm has successfully litigated.
(click on the links to download PDFs of the briefs/opinions/orders)
Miller v. State (In re U.S. Currency Totaling $470,040.00), 2020 WY 30 (Wyoming Supreme Court, Mar. 3, 2020). A highway patrol trooper stopped client driving through Wyoming and eventually found and seized $470k cash from his rental car. Authorities, over complaints from our firm, delayed the institution of the forfeiture for many months, and after adverse rulings in the trial court, the Wyoming Supreme Court on review held that the delay violated client’s constitutional due process rights and the money must be returned. See also
United States v. $114,700 in U.S. Currency,1:17-cv-00452-CMA-GPG (Dist. Colorado Dec. 6, 2019). Law enforcement task force searched client’s property and discovered hundreds of large marijuana plants being grown, as well as processing operation. Inside the house, officers found a scale, money counter, stink bags and envelopes, and over $100k cash. After a 3 day trial, the jury exonerated $93,700 and the Court accordingly found that client “substantially prevailed” and ordered the Government to pay for client’s attorneys fees and costs of litigation.
United States v. Funds in the Amount of $239,400, 795 F.3d 639 (7th Cir. 2015). As a result of our firm’s efforts, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued a seminal forfeiture opinion. The government had argued – as it had been around the country – that at the beginning of a forfeiture case, a claimant must first prove that his seized property was not related to drugs before the government had to produce evidence or prove anything! Amazingly, the District Court was convinced and issued a summary judgment after determining that our clients’ were not to be believed when they said that the property seized from them was theirs and derived from their computer business. But the Court of Appeals adopted all of this firm’s arguments and issued a powerful opinion explaining that the district court had erred and the question of whether the property was related to drugs was the merits of the case, not standing, and was to be decided by a jury.
People v. Bobcat Tractor (Johnson – Real Party in Interest) Shasta County Superior Court Case No. CV-15-0181766, Order dated 09/04/15. On our motion, the Superior Court dismissed the forfeiture case on due process grounds, denied the People’s motion to amend the forfeiture petition, and ordered that the seized tractor be returned to our client.
United States v. Grossi, No. 13-15487 (9th Cir. 2015). The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of our demand that the government pay for our client's attorneys fees in a civil forfeiture action and held that because the client (who had been a criminal defendant) repaid a loan on his real real property (that had been ordered forfeited because it was used in an illegal marijuana grow), he was her successor in interest, he stood in her shoes for the purpose of collecting an award for the attorney fees she incurred in that action, and denied the government’s petition for rehearing.
United States v. $85,688.00 in United States Currency, (10th Cir. August 28, 2014):A Utah state trooper stopped our client, for a registration violation after the trooper’s database supposedly showed a “not on file” for the license plate number, while our client drove on the interstate, and detained and searched our client without the client’s consent. As a result, the trooper discovered and seized $85,688.00 and a supposed small amount of marijuana from our client’s vehicle. After the federal government “adopted” the case and instituted a judicial forfeiture action against the money, we moved to suppress the use of the money and marijuana (and other evidence discovered from the illegal search) in the case - we argued that the trooper violated our client’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision and directed the trial court to grant the motion to suppress evidence, and ordered the trial court to conduct further proceedings consistent with their opinion. On our motion after the successful appeal, the district court ordered the government to reimburse our client all of the attorneys fees and costs he incurred in defending the forfeiture action against his money.
United States v. 7215 Longboat Drive (Lot 24), et al., 750 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 2014):
The government initiated forfeiture against real properties and when clients attempted to enter the action, the government argued, and convinced the trial court, that their judicial claims were late, and should not be allowed to contest the forfeiture, so the properties were ordered forfeited. On appeal, a panel of the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed and vacated the forfeiture judgments entered against the properties and the order striking the clients' claims as untimely, and remanded the case for a merits determination on the clients’ claims to the properties.