Justice Thomas's Doubts About Civil Forfeiture

The U.S. Supreme Court receives thousands of appeals from the nation’s lower courts each year. It declines to hear almost all of them. But for Justice Clarence Thomas, one of those rejected cases earlier this month gave him the chance to challenge a widely criticized police practice: civil forfeiture.

Leonard v. Texas reached the Court after Lisa Leonard sought to overturn Texas’s seizure of roughly $200,000 in cash from a safe in her son’s car. In 2013, Liberty County police officers pulled him and his girlfriend over along what the state described as a “known drug corridor,” a law-enforcement term that can be applied to most major interstate highways. Officers seized the money and argued in local courts that the state could keep it, alleging it was likely the profits from drug sales.

Leonard, an IRS officer, said the cash was hers, denied it was related to any drug sales, and told the courts it constituted the proceeds from the recent sale of a house she’d owned in Pennsylvania. A bill of sale for the property had been found alongside the cash in the safe. Leonard testified that she started storing her money in safes after the stock market crashed in 2008, and that her son was bringing the money to Texas so she could buy him and his girlfriend a house there. The Texas courts sided with police, who only had to prove that a “preponderance of the evidence” showed the money was tied to drug activity.

read more at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/04/clarence-thomas-civ...