October 4, 2018

When you are preparing to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, you want all the friends you can get. When your case challenges abusive civil forfeiture practices and excessive government fines and deals with the implications of over 800 years of history—you need all the friends you can get.

We at IJ are grateful to have many friends supporting our advocacy for our client, forfeiture victim Tyson Timbs, and thousands of Americans like him. Since the Supreme Court announced it will hear IJ’s case about whether the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause reins in state and local governments, a vast coalition of organizations and individuals has come forward to write amicus, or friend-of-the-court, briefs supporting Tyson.

An impressive left–right coalition of nonprofits jointly told the Court how excessive fines trap individuals in cycles of poverty. The American Civil Liberties Union, R Street Institute, Fines and Fees Justice Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center joined together to detail these abuses in an important brief. Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote a powerful brief about the harms businesses incur from fines imposed by politically motivated state attorneys general. In addition, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund discussed the history of the application of the Bill of Rights to the states. Such an ideologically diverse coalition is a rare find at the high court.

An impressive left–right coalition of nonprofits jointly told the Supreme Court how excessive fines trap individuals in cycles of poverty.

Our allies in the campaign to end civil forfeiture also informed the Court about the practice’s inherent dangers: The Drug Policy Alliance, DKT Liberty Project, and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers all wrote briefs detailing its history—and the human toll of its abuse.

Professors Eugene Volokh and Beth Colgan at UCLA’s Supreme Court Clinic authored a brief discussing the overuse of fines and fees in modern America, while a group of Eighth Amendment scholars recounted 800 years of Anglo–American tradition protecting against excessive fines, from Magna Carta to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

These are just a few of the 19 briefs filed, including submissions by old friends like the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Cato Institute. This wide range of support illustrates the sweeping impact of forfeitures and fines and fees on people across the country.

Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!

Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.