When you get sick of Aunt Mildred’s stories and can’t handle another round of pinochle, have a look at IJ’s Top Tales from 2013. Thanks for helping us make 2013 a banner year. Happy Holidays from the Merry Band of Litigators!
|James Dupree and his studio|
1. “How Sunrise Police Make Money Selling Drugs,” Sun Sentinel
Did you know that cops can be cocaine dealers too? In Sunrise, Fla., police officers—the people sworn to protect citizens and uphold the law—intentionally lured cocaine buyers into their town to sell them drugs. After busting the buyers, these cops would use asset forfeiture to permanently seize their cash and cars. Police made millions.
The city of Philadelphia has seized a prominent Philadelphia artist’s studio through eminent domain. James Dupree’s art is featured throughout the city, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Learn how Dupree is fighting back.
3. “Taken,” The New Yorker
Sarah Stillman’s article on civil forfeiture is dazzling. She has taken an obscure and seemingly dry legal loophole and given it life and shape. There’s a reason why Stillman’s article won Longreads Best of 2013 “Most Urgent Story” Award for Outstanding Reporting. Prepare to be outraged.
4. “Homes for the Taking: Liens, Losses, and Profiteers,” Washington Post
Imagine losing your house because you missed paying $45 dollars in taxes, or even worse, you paid your taxes but the tax office made a mistake. Tax lien foreclosure may be one of the dirtiest tricks a city can play on its citizens, and it’s happening in our nation’s capital.
The cops are having a party with your stuff! Under civil asset forfeiture, police can seize property suspected of involvement in criminal activity. People don’t have to be convicted—or even charged—with a crime to permanently lose their cars, homes or cash. In Montgomery County, Tex., then-District Attorney Michael McDougal spent over $400 on tequila, rum and kegs, and $139 on a margarita machine. The DA’s office even won first place at a county fair for best margarita. Might be time to look into a legal career in public-sector law!
In his new book, IJ’s very own senior attorney, Clark Neily, makes a persuasive case that the courts have abdicated their duty to uphold the Constitution and defend Americans’ rights. He highlights one outrageous example after another of how this abdication has led to all sorts of judicial ridiculousness.
To give just a taste: The U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to close the Hemingway Museum because the writer’s six-toed cats slept outside in Key West, Fla. The courts said that the government had the right to regulate the museum through the interstate commerce clause because the Hemingway Museum sold cat magnets that might end up crossing state lines. Voilà! Legal madness.
Madison Root tried to bring the holiday spirit to Portland, Ore., by selling mistletoe in a public park, but the city would have none of it. Begging would have been fine though.
|A six-toed, or polydactyl, cat|
8. “Ticketing Toys for Tots,” USA Today
The local government in Deltona, Fla., apparently needs more work, or maybe a glass of holiday punch. The city fined a local businesswoman for posting a Toys for Tots drop-off sign on her property, saying that it was too close to the road.
9. Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, by Radley Balko
An investigative reporter for The Huffington Post, and soon The Washington Post, Radley Balko examines how police have become increasingly militarized and aggressive. With a deft hand, Balko weaves together history, constitutional law, policy analysis and truly heartbreaking examples of police brutality and malfeasance.
10. "What Do Government Agencies Have Against 23andMe, Uber, and Airbnb?," Bloomberg Businessweek
Wouldn't it be great if a company invented a way for ordinary people to test their genetics for disease and illness? The FDA and American Medical Association certainly don't think so because spitting in a tube apparently requires “medical supervision.”