In the waning days of his tenure in office, Attorney General Eric Holder has taken some actions that are praiseworthy. First he has criticized the trigger-happy behavior of many police departments, including the Cleveland one. Then he said that his office will defend the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the upcoming case before the US Supreme Court.
Finally he has said that police cannot use the federal legal system to carry out their scandalous civil asset forfeitures, where local jurisdictions were confiscating the property of people who had not even committed any crimes. I have written extensively about this abuse of the legal system that has generated billions of dollars for local authorities.
As for the last one, there are some loopholes for police and states that are still looking to make some easy money using these forfeitures.
Holder’s decision allows some limited exceptions, including illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography, a small fraction of the total. This would eliminate virtually all cash and vehicle seizures made by local and state police from the program.
While police can continue to make seizures under their own state laws, the federal program was easy to use and required most of the proceeds from the seizures to go to local and state police departments. Many states require seized proceeds to go into the general fund.
A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”
I hope it does stop at least some of the abuse.