Haven’t updated the blog this week, but we’ve been busy. Here’s a quick rundown of what this week has brought us while I’m in transit to St. Louis:
1. We’re in discussions with a couple Missouri school districts regarding the possibility of filing a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Justice. The core contention is that state courts do not give up ‘in rem’ jurisdiction even when a federal agent initiates forfeitures and that the complicity of the DOJ in making adoptive forfeitures possible for Missouri law enforcement to illegally divert forfeiture money from the School Building Revolving Fund (ref. Missouri Constitution, Article IX, Section 7; RsMO 166.131 and 166.300). There is precedent from the 5th and 7th federal Circuits for that argument; I don’t have the 7th Circuit the citation on hand but the relevant case law in the 5th is Scarabin v. Drug Enforcement Administration (966 F. 2d 989 – Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit 1992). We are of course months from actually filing, but the discussion has started, and I would like to incorporate any such lawsuit as a class-action.
2. In conjunction with a number of other organizations we are sponsoring a rally and a couple events in Columbia with Ed Rosenthal, the executive director of Green Aid, the Marijuana Education and Legal Defense Fund. Ed filed a complaint challenging the exoneration of the officers involved in the Kinloch SWAT raidthat went viral after Radley Balko at Reason Magazine picked up the story. We will be with him as he speaks to the Columbia Citizens Police Review Board at 7pm Wednesday, August 4th, defending his right to file this complaint. The Review Board meeting will be at City Hall, Columbia, Missouri, at 8th & Broadway, and we’ll be rallying outside City Hall after Ed speaks. Contact me at Eapen@ForfeitureReform.com for more information.
3. We have received our Sunshine law request for the narcotics SWAT warrants from the Boone County Circuit Court in Columbia, Missouri, and have digitized all of them (with a big thanks to our very dedicated intern, Grant Watkins). These warrants, along with our analytics, will be available publicly over the next week. Our next Sunshine law requests are more expansive and directed at Kansas City, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, and Springfield, Missouri; the goal is to catalogue from a statewide perspective the abuse of civil asset forfeiture provisions and the many ways in which this money changes law enforcement priorities and leads to the militarization of domestic law enforcement. We can certainly use your help in paying for these documents, which will cost us several thousand dollars to obtain, digitize, and analyze. Click here to make a donation.
4. We are also in the process of obtaining and creating a national database of auditor reports of forfeiture funds. The problems of civil forfeiture exist in just about every state in these United States, and while most states don’t have a regular statewide audit of these funds, there are audits of specific law enforcement agencies that in the aggregate indicate tremendous problems with the basic governmental framework of cities and counties around the nation. Stay tuned.