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April 17, 2023

Supreme Court grants cert on due process requirements in civil asset forfeiture case

There was a lone cert grant in the US Supreme Court's order list this morning, and this Bloomberg news piece highlights why the case might be of interest to crimina justice fans.  Here is how the press account starts:

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that asks whether people are owed an immediate hearing to recover property that was seized by the government in a crime they didn’t commit.

At the center of the case granted Monday are two Alabama residents whose cars were impounded when someone else was arrested while driving them. Lena Sutton lost her car after her roommate was pulled over for speeding and arrested for possessing large amounts of methamphetamine. Halima Culley lost her vehicle when her son was pulled over and arrested for illegally possessing drugs and a firearm.

The grant carries the case name Culley v. Marshall, and here is how the cert petition in this matter presents the question:

In determining whether the Due Process Clause requires a state or local government to provide a post-seizure probable cause hearing prior to a statutory judicial forfeiture proceeding and, if so, when such a hearing must take place, should district courts apply the “speedy trial” test employed in United States v. $8,850, 461 U.S. 555 (1983) and  Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514 (1972), as held by the Eleventh Circuit or the three-part due process analysis as set forth by Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976) as held by at least the Second, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits .

April 17, 2023 at 12:46 PM | Permalink


My quick read (and I am sure that the briefs will make things clearer) is that the plaintiffs (suing over the wrongful loss of the use of their property while the forfeiture cases were pending) believe that they should have some right to some type of post-seizure "preliminary hearing" at which a court could determine whether there is a valid basis for the depriving them of their property while the case is pending (and implicitly dismiss cases in which the government can't overcome an innocent owner defense).

Aside from the circuit split noted in the question presented, how many states have that type of hearing? And how many states are like Alabama and merely require a "speedy" disposition of the forfeiture case? (And how many require disposition of the criminal case before anything can be done by either side in the forfeiture case?)

Posted by: tmm | Apr 17, 2023 12:56:43 PM

Thomas is corrupt. Brings the whole Court into further disrepute. He should resign the way Fortas did years ago.

Posted by: anon | Apr 17, 2023 2:49:38 PM

anon, I agree with you that Justice Thomas has seriously stained the Court and should resign, but there is nothing we can do about it, so let's stick to the subject of the postings.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Apr 17, 2023 2:55:38 PM

Dave from Texas, sorry but hard to ignore the corruption allegations surrounding Justice Thomas because they are starting to smell.

Posted by: Mary quite Contrary | Apr 18, 2023 9:25:03 AM

“If the reports are accurate [about Thomas receiving gifts from Harlan Crow], it stinks,” Romney said. When pressed to elaborate, he added, “I don’t have to explain more than that.”

Democrats have vowed to respond to the Thomas revelations, but their power, in this case, is limited. The Supreme Court polices itself. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a vocal critic of dark money and GOP efforts to install conservative judges on the judiciary, on Monday laughed off Republican attempts to wave away the Thomas controversy.

“They know he’s a billionaire, right?” Whitehouse said of Crow. “They know he’s politically active. They know he’s filed briefs in the Supreme Court. This is a guy who’s interested in the court, and not as a casual observer. So I think that puts the extraordinarily Rococo extravagance of these gifts into a very different category than just wildly generous personal hospitality.”

Posted by: anon | Apr 18, 2023 10:33:01 AM

Off topic entirely, but cannot resist chiming in. As a conservative, I am distressed at the increasing lost of trust in the integrity of the Supreme Court. Not good for any of us. See

Posted by: anon3 | Apr 18, 2023 2:08:01 PM

The accusations against Thomas are as weak as wet tissue paper.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Apr 21, 2023 12:00:42 AM

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