Thursday, October 30, 2008

Common Sense Alert

The result in United States v. Levesque, 1st Cir. No. 08-1344, feels like it's right. A woman who drove marijuana shipments all over the Eastern seaboard was hit with a $3 million dollar forfeiture order because that's what the stuff she shipped was worth. The woman told the district court that she had made $37,000 on her illegal activities. The court said, in essence, that's great but you might do well in the future and be able to pay the government back.

The First Circuit reversed, in no small part based on the Magna Charta (!) and the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment (remember that?).

Just at a really basic level, didn't the First Circuit do the right thing? How can a person who made $37,000 on drug transactions worth $3 million be put on the hook for the whole $3 million?

This one could go all the way. The holding is based in no small part on a fractured Supreme Court decision where Justices Scalia and Breyer broke with their usual allies and did exactly the opposite of what the conventional wisdom would have them do. So as much as this blog has beaten the drum of result-based decision-making, there are exceptions out there. Not enough. Better not to be greedy, though.

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