69-year-old church-going widow awaits appellate ruling, hopes en banc court decides that 8th Amendment's constitutional protection against excessive fines prevents DA's office from forfeiting her home and 17-year-old minivan for son's alleged drug activity, activity in which she neither participated nor condoned.
Chris Mondics of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports:
"...On April 3, 2013, Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick ruled in favor of the D.A.'s Office and ordered Young, 69, a widow active in her church, to turn over her home to the city. The city had arrested her son and another man for the sale of small amounts of marijuana there, and then, under civil forfeiture statutes, moved to seize Young's home.
They were able to do this even though Young had never been accused of a crime, much less convicted. The loss of the home is no small thing, say her lawyers. She has been forced to stay with relatives. The house was appraised at $54,000, and it was her main asset.
That and her 1997 Chevrolet Venture minivan. The D.A.'s Office took that, too.
Young's case is now on appeal before Commonwealth Court. A three-judge panel originally heard the case in October, but in a sign of how seriously the court views the constitutional issues implicated by the seizure, a majority of its 11 justices decided to rehear the matter in May. It is expected to rule any day now on whether the seizure violated Young's constitutional protection against excessive fines under the Eighth Amendment.
Young's lawyers at the firm of Ballard Spahr, Jessica Anthony and Jason Leckerman, have no quarrel with the city's aggressive posture toward drug dealing. They say the concern is that in his zeal to push back against drug dealers, District Attorney Seth Williams is subjecting people to exceedingly harsh punishment for crimes that someone else committed...." Continue reading full article @ Chris Mondics, Law Review: Loss of Assets Shines Light on Civil Forfeiture, Phila. Inquirer, June 30, 2014.