Federal Court Dismisses North Carolina Forfeiture Case “With” Prejudice, Rejecting Government’s Attempt to Evade Attorneys’ Fees

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This week a federal court handed down a long-awaited decision vindicating Lyndon McLellan in his fight against the IRS.

Lyndon’s case came to the nation’s attention after the IRS seized his entire bank account in July 2014 using civil forfeiture for the innocent act of depositing his hard-earned money in the bank in amounts under $10,000. The Institute for Justice took Lyndon’s case to clear his name and get back his property, and in June 2015, the government finally returned Lyndon’s money.

In returning Lyndon’s money, however, the government sought to avoid its obligation under federal law to pay Lyndon’s attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Lyndon racked up nearly $20,000 in fees owed to his accountant and lawyer before the Institute for Justice took his case on a pro bono basis.

The district court’s decision rejected the government’s maneuver, stating:

Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized. Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. . . . This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded.

“Today’s decision recognizes that Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s outrageous use of civil forfeiture laws against a totally innocent property owner,” said IJAttorney Robert Everett Johnson. “The government took Lyndon’s property even though he did nothing wrong, forcing him into a prolonged and expensive legal nightmare. Now the government will have to comply with its obligation to make Lyndon at least partly whole.”

The decision comes just as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit prepares to consider the government’s similar attempt to avoid paying fees, costs, and interest to Carole Hinders—an Iowa restaurant owner who also had her entire bank account seized and then returned. The Eighth Circuit will hold oral argument in that case onFebruary 9 in St. Paul, MN.

“The government cannot turn a citizen’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” said IJ Attorney Wesley Hottot, who will argue the case for Carole Hinders. “Now that Lyndon has been vindicated, we look forward to holding the government to account in Carole’s case as well.”

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IRS caught violating its own civil forfeiture policy

Lyndon McLellan has spent more than a decade running L&M Convenience Mart, a gas station, restaurant and convenience store in rural Fairmont, North Carolina. Then, almost one year ago, agents from the IRS came to the store and announced that they had seized his entire bank account, totaling more than $107,000. Yesterday, April 30, 2015, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a national public interest law firm leading the fight to end civil forfeiture, filed court documents contesting the IRS’s forfeiture of Lyndon’s money.

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GivingTuesday at Institute for Justice doubles donors’ impact only for today

givingtuesday

Today, December 2, 2014, the Institute for Justice is participating in GivingTuesday, a global day of giving designed to celebrate philanthropy.

A generous IJ donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar each donation given to IJ during this year’s GivingTuesday event. This means that every gift will go twice as far in the fight for everyday heroes like IJ clients Russ Caswell and the monks of St. Joseph Abbey.

IJ’s GivingTuesday matching grant challenge starts at 12:00 a.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow, December 2, 2014.

GivingTuesday at Institute for Justice doubles donors' impact only for today

givingtuesday

Today, December 2, 2014, the Institute for Justice is participating in GivingTuesday, a global day of giving designed to celebrate philanthropy.

A generous IJ donor has offered to match dollar-for-dollar each donation given to IJ during this year’s GivingTuesday event. This means that every gift will go twice as far in the fight for everyday heroes like IJ clients Russ Caswell and the monks of St. Joseph Abbey.

IJ’s GivingTuesday matching grant challenge starts at 12:00 a.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m. tomorrow, December 2, 2014.

Movie rights purchased in Supreme Court Kelo case

Susette Kelo—the working class nurse who lost her waterfront home in an epic U.S. Supreme Court battle—has lived a life that reads like a Hollywood movie, and now that is exactly what it will become. Today, June 23, 2014 marks the 9th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s rulling in the Kelo case.

Producers Ted and Courtney Balaker of Korchula Productions today announced they purchased the movie rights to the book “Little Pink House,” which documented the behind-the-scenes story behind the Kelo fight against eminent domain abuse, and they also purchased the life rights to Kelo’s personal story. With those rights secured, the script ready, and funding expected to be completed this year, Korchula Productions plans to move forward with casting and move into production of the theatrical movie in the spring of 2015. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the infamous ruling in Kelo v City of New London, a much-despised decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could take the homes of ordinary Americans and hand the land over to another private party for the mere promise that the new project would raise more money in taxes.

Read the rest of the article here.

Ferry brothers will not be heard by the Supereme Court

Today, June 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of a case challenging a nearly century-old, government-imposed ferry monopoly on Lake Chelan in central Washington state. The appeal, filed by the Institute for Justice on behalf of brothers Jim and Cliff Courtney, raised important questions concerning the scope of protection that the U.S. Constitution provides for the economic rights of ordinary Americans. The Court’s refusal to hear the appeal lets stand a terrible 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision wholly dismissive of economic rights.

Read the rest of the story here.