Only a few weeks before the IRS gave Ken Quran his entire bank account back, IJ struck another blow in the fight against civil forfeiture. A federal judge in North Carolina ruled that the government would have to pay attorneys’ fees and interest to Lyndon McLellan, a convenience store owner who had $107,000 seized and then returned by the IRS.
As readers of Liberty & Law will remember, the IRS seized Lyndon’s bank account under structuring laws because he deposited money in amounts under $10,000. Lyndon’s story caught the public’s attention and the IRS agreed to return the money after a storm of public outrage.
Then the IRS tried to walk away as if nothing had happened, arguing that it could not be required to pay Lyndon’s expenses or even interest on his money.
IJ was not going to let that happen. And thankfully, on Feb. 2, an engaged judge held the IRS to account, ruling that:
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.
The decision sets a powerful precedent for other civil forfeiture victims. Indeed, just days after the decision was issued, IJ turned around and cited it to another federal court in another case.
Civil forfeiture allows government to turn innocent lives upside down. Now, thanks to IJ, government will have to pay to set things right.