SCOTUS Rules Accused Criminals May Keep Untainted Asset to Pay Attorney

In a 6-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel includes allowing a criminal defendant to use untainted substitute assets to hire an attorney, rather than freezing them for forfeiture to the government after conviction.

 The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result in Luis v. United States. State and local governments—police departments in particular—receive criminal asset forfeitures. Any many state forfeiture statutes allow freezing of substitute assets. Continue reading


Supreme Court to Decide How Far Asset Forfeitures May Go

Sila Luis was indicted on charges related to $45 million in Medicare fraud. Unsurprisingly, her personal assets amounted to much less than $45 million. The federal government sought to freeze the use of her assets not traceable to the fraud. She wanted to use them to hire an attorney.

The question in Luis v. United States is whether not allowing a criminal defendant to use assets not traceable to a criminal offense to hire counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel.

This case is relevant to state and local government for a few reasons. First, while the asset forfeiture in this case likely went to reimburse the federal government for the Medicaid fraud, generally, law enforcement involved receive asset forfeitures. Second, some state asset forfeiture laws, like the federal statute in this case, allow untainted assets to be substituted. Third, in some instances state and local governments, like the federal government in this case, are the victim of a fraud and seek to recoup as much of their losses as possible.      Continue reading


Monday Morning Review: Local Governments in the Federal Appellate Courts

Here are last week’s published decisions involving local governments:court collumn

Fourth Circuit

  • Cherry v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City, No. 13-1007 (Aug. 6, 2014): In case brought by active and retired Baltimore police officers and fire fighters who participate in City’s pension plan, reversing district court’s decision that the City had violated the Contract Clause and affirming that the City had not violated the Takings Clause by changing how it calcualtes pension benefits.

Fifth Circuit

  • Thompson v. Mercer, No. 13-10773 (Aug. 7, 2014): In 1983 action against officer who shot and killed individual who had stolen vehicle and led police on a two-hour, high-speed chase, affirming grant of qualified immunity to officer because use of deadly force was not a constitutional violation.
  • Sullo & Bobbitt v. Milner, No. 13-10869 (Aug. 6, 2014): In unpublished decision, affirming dismissal of case brought by attorneys claiming First-Amendment right to access misdemeanor court records within one day of their filing.

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