End of the road for civil asset forfeiture?

I have written repeatedly about the abuse of the so-called ‘civil asset forfeiture’ provisions in the law that many government authorities use to seize the assets of people simply because of the suspicion that they may have been involved in a crime. The government holds on to these assets even if the person is not even charged with the crime. It should not be surprising that it is mostly low-income people who are at the receiving end. The people whose assets are seized have to sue the government to get them back, a complicated and expensive process, and many of the affected people simply do not have the resources to do so, so they end up losing their homes and their cars, which are often the only assets they have.
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The petty cruelty of the US prison system

I came across this article about Selene Saavedra Roman, a young woman who worked as a flight attendant for the American airline Mesa, who was detained for six weeks upon the return of her flight from Mexico because she is the child of undocumented immigrants. She is one of the many ‘Dreamers’, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, that the Trump administration is cracking down on.
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What were the crimes committed in the Varsity Blues case?

I became curious about what exactly were the crimes committed by the people who had got their children into the colleges of their choice. I looked up the actual indictment and the people are charged with racketeering conspiracy under Title 18, section 1962(d) of the US penal code. Title 18 is the main criminal code of the federal government in the US and covers all manner of crimes.
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Well, duh! Of course flipping the bird is free speech

A federal appeals court has upheld the complaint of Debra Cruise-Gulyas, who sued a police officer Matthew Minard who had issued her a citation after she gave him the middle finger.

In a ruling filed this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said: “Any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit said her gesture did not violate any identified law. Minard, it said, “clearly lacked authority to stop Cruise-Gulyas a second time.”

“Minard should have known better,” the opinion says.

It pointed to a 2013 ruling by another appeals court that said the “ancient gesture of insult” does not give police “a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”

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Why did no bankers go to jail?

This was the big question after the financial crash of 2008 that ruined the lives of so many people. The public radio program Marketplace had a detailed examination of this question. While banks were named in indictments and plea deals reached with them for fines, no top bankers were named or prosecuted. Indeed the government bailouts enabled them to reward themselves with big bonuses. The analysis lasted about 45 minutes but was spread over three days as follows: Part 1 lasts from 0-19 minutes, Part 2 was from 4:50 to 15:30, and Part 3 lasted from 0 to 15:30 minutes.
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Tennessee – a state where hopeless causes never die

You would think that following the US Supreme Court decision in 2015 outlawing bans on same-sex marriage, opponents would admit defeat and wait for their god to deliver the retribution to these sinners that these religious zealots long for. Not the Tennessee legislature. They are considering a law that would ban such marriages in their state.
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The problem of mandatory sentencing laws

Here is the part of an 4-1 majority opinion by a New York State appellate court that describes the offense committed in the case that was brought before them.

Defendant, a homeless 53 year-old, entered a pharmacy and attempted to pay for a tube of toothpaste using a counterfeit $20 bill. The bill was rejected by the cashier, and defendant left the store without completing the transaction. Shortly thereafter, defendant was observed by the police, where he was attempting to purchase food with a counterfeit $20 bill. The restaurant cashier refused to accept the bill. Defendant was stopped by the police in front of yet another fast-food restaurant. Five counterfeit $20 bills were recovered from him upon arrest.

So here’s a question. What would have been a reasonable punishment in this case?
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The danger posed by extreme minority rule

The November 2018 issue of Harper’s Magazine magazine has an article by Jonathan Taplin with the rather alarming title of REBIRTH OF A NATION: Can states’ rights save us from a second civil war? (possibly behind a paywall). The fundamental problem that he points out is that the US constitution has insufficient elasticity to accommodate the changes that have taken place since it was first written. Many of its features were included as part of compromises to gain acceptance from each of the 13 original states and one that he points out is the provision that gives each state two senators irrespective of its size. As a result, small states have disproportionately greater representation and power in the senate. Currently twenty-six states with 18 percent of the population elect a majority of the senate’s 100 seats, while nine states with an absolute majority of the population elect just eighteen senators.
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Challenge to ranked-choice voting in Maine thrown out

The only congressional races to use ranked choice voting are those in Maine and the first time it was used was in last month’s elections and it produced a result in the second Congressional district that illustrated how it works. When the first choice votes were counted, the Republican candidate Bruce Poliquin came in first and the Democrat Jared Golden came second but none of the four candidates got the required 50%+1 votes. So the second choices of those voted for the candidates who came in third and fourth were then tabulated and Golden emerged the winner.
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