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Muddling Through

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Maryland Governor Signs Sweeping Civil Forfeiture Reform Package

Some good news out of Maryland.

Today, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed HB 336, which enacts an important overhaul of the state’s civil forfeiture laws. The bill, which overwhelmingly passed both the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, creates transparency requirements and a long list of new protections for property owners. Sponsored by Del. Joseph Vallario and Sen. Michael Hough, the new law will take effect October 1.

“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and property rights in America,” said IJ Attorney Rob Peccola, who testified in favor of HB 336 before the House and Senate earlier this year. “The new reporting requirements in HB 336 mean the public will no longer be in the dark about civil forfeiture in Maryland. And by raising the evidentiary standard of proof, the bill will better defend owners from unjust forfeitures.”

HB 336 increases protections for Marylanders by:
•Raising the standard of proof to forfeit property to “clear and convincing evidence;”
•Establishing new reporting requirements for seizures and forfeitures, which oblige agencies to report how they spent forfeiture funds, whether or not criminal charges or convictions accompanied a forfeiture case, and the race and gender of property owners affected by a seizure;
•Requiring a criminal conviction to forfeit an owner’s principal family home;
•Repealing a provision that allowed money to be forfeited in relation to drug possession. (Forfeiting money related to the unlawful manufacture, distribution or dispensing of controlled substances would still be authorized.);
•Requiring that property owners be given a receipt when their property is seized;
•Instituting new deadlines for agencies to file forfeiture complaints. (Failing to file would mean the government would have to promptly return seized property);
•Directing 20 percent of forfeiture proceeds from the general fund to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to fund drug treatment and education programs; and
•Banning the transfer of seized cash to federal agencies, unless the amount seized is greater than $50,000 or if the transfer follows a federal warrant.

“For too long, local and state law enforcement have used ‘equitable sharing’ to bypass Maryland state law because the federal government offers substantially higher payouts to law enforcement than what state law allows,” said IJ Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “The legislation, unfortunately, did not solve this problem. The warrant exception creates a loophole allowing Maryland law enforcement to continue circumventing state law; legislators should close it. Law enforcement should not be able to contract freely with the federal government because it pays police and sheriffs more forfeiture proceeds.” Despite the large, bipartisan consensus in favor of reform, the Justice Department decided to resume equitable sharing.

Balance of article at the link:
Posted by Muddling Through | Fri May 20, 2016, 08:13 PM (10 replies)

Morley Safer, Legendary ‘60 Minutes’ Reporter, Dies at 84


Emmy-winning newsman Morley Safer, one of the first reporters to convey the brutality of the Vietnam War to America’s TV viewers and a mainstay on “60 Minutes” for 46 years, died Thursday in his Manhattan home, CBS News reports. He was 84.

Safer was in declining health when he announced his retirement last week. CBS News last Sunday broadcast a long-planned special hour to honor the occasion, “Morley Safer: A Reporter’s Life,” which Safer watched in his home.

“Morley was one of the most important journalists in any medium, ever,” said CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves. “He broke ground in war reporting and made a name that will forever be synonymous with ’60 Minutes.’ He was also a gentleman, a scholar, a great raconteur — all of those things and much more to generations of colleagues, his legion of friends, and his family, to whom all of us at CBS offer our sincerest condolences over the loss of one of CBS’ and journalism’s greatest treasures.”

A longtime correspondent as well as a writer for documentary series such as “CBS Reports,” Safer described his legacy to broadcast journalism as “a pretty solid body of work that emphasized the words, emphasized ideas and the craft of writing for this medium.” The 12-time winner of news and documentary Emmys, including a lifetime achievement award in 2003, from 39 nominations also won three Peabody Awards.

Balance of article at link.
Posted by Muddling Through | Thu May 19, 2016, 01:25 PM (10 replies)

Did the Supreme Court Make the Right Decision in the ​Citizens United​ Case After All?

Certainly is an interesting take.

"Few Supreme Court decisions have been memorable—and even fewer have been notoriously wrong. Michael Kinsley examines how the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case simply upheld a core national value (and maybe not the one you think).

by Michael Kinsley,

For all the fuss about Supreme Court nominations, very few Supreme Court decisions are actually remembered by history, and even fewer are notorious for getting it wrong. In fact, there are really only three: Dred Scott (1857), which upheld slavery; Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which upheld racial segregation; and Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which upheld state anti-sodomy laws. It took the Civil War to overturn Dred Scott. Plessy v. Ferguson was reversed 58 years after it was issued (in the most famous Supreme Court case of all, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). It took only 17 years for the court to decide, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), that it had made a mistake, and to reverse Bowers v. Hardwick.

Any others? Well, Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 election, would certainly be on my list of disgraceful Supreme Court decisions, but the circumstances were so bizarre that they are unlikely to arise again. Conservatives hope the historical consensus about famously bad Supreme Court decisions will extend someday to Roe v. Wade (1973), the decision legalizing abortion. Liberals hope that someday the Lousy Decision Hall of Fame will include Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which held that corporations (and unions) have the right to free speech under the First Amendment.

Already, Citizens United is probably the one Supreme Court decision since Roe that is despised by name, though these decisions are despised by different groups. For conservatives, Roe v. Wade has become shorthand for the profusion of new, judge-created “rights” in the 1960s and alleged liberal excess of all sorts. For liberals, Citizens United has come to represent the nefarious role of money in politics, which many feel has eroded if not destroyed our democracy. Money is blamed above all this year for Donald Trump, although Citizens United doesn't apply to him if, as is widely supposed, he is a human being and not a legal fiction. More generally, big business will always be bigger than small business, and rich people will always have more money than poor people. Should that entitle them to more influence on the political process? (A further complication is that rich companies are owned not by rich people, by and large, but by pension funds, which are holding the money on behalf of the middle class.)"

Balance of article follows at the link:
Posted by Muddling Through | Fri May 6, 2016, 06:52 PM (15 replies)
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