AG pick Lynch may face grilling over seizing properties

Obama bragged about his new nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, could come back to haunt her in confirmation hearings before the Senate, where some members object to prosecutors’ rampant use of civil forfeiture, a controversial but legal process that can allow citizens’ assets to be seized without due process.

Loretta Lynch, who Obama seeks to elevate to U.S. attorney general, replacing Eric Holder, announced in January that her office collected more than $904 million in criminal and civil actions in fiscal year 2013. While the policy generates funds used for other law enforcement efforts and offsets the burden on taxpayers, liberals and conservatives alike have questioned asset forfeiture as “an abuse of due process.” Experts say Lynch will likely have to defend the practice she once touted.

“It’s definitely a subject likely to come up and she’ll be pressed on it,” said Tim Lynch, director of Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but I would expect her — as someone who’s going to assume leadership of the entire Justice Department — to come to the defense of these existing practices and I would be surprised if she struck a chord that’s different from that. The Department of Justice likes things exactly the way they are, so I assume she’s going to defend the status quo.”

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Holder said the DOJ collected roughly $8.1 billion in civil and criminal actions in fiscal year 2013, or nearly three times the appropriated $2.76 billion budget for the 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices and the main litigating divisions in that same period. And an investigative series by The Washington Post has found that the amount seized by civil asset forfeitures nationwide has more than doubled to $1.1 billion last year, from $508 million in 2008. Critics have highlighted several cases which they claim had dubious justification, and deprived unprosecuted citizens of money and property.

“What the average person needs to realize is that it’s easy for the government to seize your property, but it’s very difficult for an innocent person to get that property back,” Tim Lynch told “It’s an uphill battle. Abuses are quite common, but it’s not always easy to identify the victims.”

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Lynch also will likely be confronted with a tale or two of someone caught on the wrong side of civil forfeiture, like motel owner Russell Caswell, whose Tewksbury, Mass., business — and the land it was on — was targeted by FBI agents because they suspected it was a den of drug-dealing and prostitution.

Caswell, 70, decided to fight back, however, and a federal judge in Boston dismissed the forfeiture action against Motel Caswell, ruling that the government engaged in “gross exaggeration” of the evidence and did not have authority to seize the property.

Kloster said Loretta Lynch likely will be able to defend her efforts as actions within the law — and her use of civil forfeiture isn’t likely to derail her confirmation.

So folks it looks like another crooked Obummer crony.

In July, Sen Rand Paul introduced a bill to reform current law on civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agencies to take property without charging or convicting property owners. Paul’s legislation, if passed, would change federal law by requiring the government to provide clear, convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. The bill also requires states to “abide by state law when forfeiting seized property,” a move aimed at stopping forfeiture abuses within equitable sharing practices.

Days after Paul introduced the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., introduced H.R. 5212, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, which seeks to restore personal property rights under the Fifth Amendment.

“This legislation provides commonsense reforms to restore the balance of power away from the government and back to protecting individual rights and due process,” Walberg’s statement continued. “We cannot abide a system where citizens fear that law enforcement can seize, forfeit and profit from their property.”

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