Wherein We Treat Eric Holder With A Strange New Respect

Stop the presses - Eric Holder takes a bold step for liberty and justice!

For those of a Christian bent, it's a fundamental doctrine that all men, no matter how evil, are capable of repentance and redemption.  That doesn't mean it's easy to accept - OK, Hitler loved dogs, but imagining him having a come-to-Jesus moment staggers the mind.

Yet there are proofs of this principle that crop up from time to time, and the Washington Post brings us a truly surprising example:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without warrants or criminal charges.

Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.

Holder’s decision allows limited exceptions, including illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography, a small fraction of the total. This would eliminate virtually all cash and vehicle seizures made by local and state police from the program...

The Post found that local and state police routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to warrantless searches and seized large amounts of cash without evidence of wrongdoing. The law allows such seizures and forces the owners to prove their property was legally acquired in order to get it back.

Throughout his sordid career in government, Eric Holder has worked diligently to increase the size and scope of governmental power; to increase rank injustices and hostility between favored groups and disfavored ones; and, most odious of all, to inflame racial tensions at every opportunity.  We now have open conflict between blacks as a group and the police who are sworn to protect everybody because Holder has said, in effect, that the police are the enemy of black people.  His resignation is a sad story of "too little, too late" - he should have been fired, charged with malfeasance, and imprisoned for aiding and abetting the murder of law enforcement officials as well as incitement to riot.

But on his way out, he took a powerful action for liberty and justice that, let us note, countless Republican presidents and conservative attorneys general have declined to take!

Shutting Down Legalized Theft

We're previously written about how badly designed civil forfeiture laws have created a Frankenstein's monster of an injustice system in which the cops can randomly steal whatever valuables you happen to have on your person without even charging much less convicting you of a crime.

Originally intended for use against druglords and mafia dons, the fact that civil forfeiture puts the burden of proof on the victim instead of on the police makes it an impossibly tempting tool for local cops to pad their budgets and, in some cases, their own personal lifestyles.

Prohibiting local law enforcement from abusing this misbegotten law is simple justice, but it's more than that.  With most governmental policies, the devil is in the details, but the details of Holder's order are positively angelic.  Let us count the ways:

Holder explicitly does not prevent the immediate confiscation and forfeiture of illegal items - child pornography, illegal drugs, illegal weapons, and the like, which are inherently criminal.  We could argue over the appropriateness of banning specific firearms, but if we accept the principle of governmental authority to ban anything at all, it's rational to allow government agents to grab banned items when they encounter them.  This policy change will not create another means for potheads and similar scofflaws to hang onto their wares because they cannot turn them into money.

Nor does Holder alter the ability of prosecutors to seek forfeiture as part of the criminal penalties for a felony conviction.  Again, this is common sense: once someone has been duly convicted in open court of a profitable criminal act, it's perfectly appropriate for the government to confiscate his ill-gotten gains.  This policy simply gets rid of forfeitures without an accompanying criminal conviction.

Best of all, Holder's action shows that, despite all appearances, there really are a few major issues of common ground between the right and the left.  The far-left ACLU, the libertarian Institute for Justice, and several Republican congressmen and ex-Justice Department officials cooperated to push for this change.  When we seek out common ground, we can actually accomplish something!

In a world of profound polarization, it sometimes seems as if there's nothing that both right and left agree on.  In the main, that's true; but life is lived in the details, and as Eric Holder has demonstrated, there's still room for bipartisan progress that actually increases liberty.  Three cheers!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

Yes, good news indeed. But would he have done this for non-drug related crimes? My guess is that if the busts mostly involved rural rednecks, with guns and moonshine stills, he would have gladly seized everything for miles around.

January 21, 2015 10:09 AM
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