Archive Blogs: Property seizures and The Powers of Congress

Property Seizures


…in framing a government that is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.

James Madison, Federalist 51

In case you have not noticed, over the past two decades, Police have begun to seize cars whenever possible. The practice began when laws were passed to allow the legitimate seizure of the proceeds and accessories of genuine crime. Seizure quickly spread to every car involved in any arrest, and then to whenever possible, or literally to every car broken down on the side of the road.

I discovered this when a fellow who roomed at the house here had his car impounded from the side of a dirt road in Green Oak Township, a mere 12 hours after it had broken down. I believe the law allows 24 hours. The police said it was impeding traffic, but I saw for myself the tracks of the flatbed off to the side where the car was loaded.

Inflated towing fees are then applied, and impound fees that rise daily. For the poor, these quickly exceed the value of their cars, and so their cars are lost. It was with some difficulty that my friend was allowed to retrieve his tools for roofing work- which is a bit harder than car impounding, though it pays a bit less.

These impound lots seem often to be owned by relatives of the police, as I believe was the case in the only two instances I have noted. Since I was teaching American Government at the time, I thought I would show the kid how in our system, justice can be secured with the right kind of effort. But when I called the State Police, and they would do nothing. I threatened to report the car stolen, and I was threatened with charges for filing as false police report. After all, we all knew where the car was, and what had just happened.

One sometimes knows corruption when one sees it, or rather smells it, as well as the abuse of power. It was not my car, or I would have surely bruised myself on it. No one can afford a lawyer, and the courts will not find the executive liable anyway. I wrote some letters, but that was the extent of the American Government demonstration.

On November 12th and 13th of 2009, the Detroit News ran a series of articles on the issue, by George Hunter and Doug Guthrie, with many examples and an attempt to indicate the legal bases on which these things are, in the courts, said to be done. In the worst case, which is now becoming famous, a party was raided by Detroit Police, no charges filed, but over 100 cars seized. That is 100,000 dollars for a single night’s work. It is a wonder they could not then balance the budget. In another case, also becoming nationally famous, one Red Cross worker waited in the street for another, and was accused of soliciting prostitution, literally for glancing at passers by. This case, I believe, went to the Michigan Supreme Court, and was pending when the article was written, but, has since been lost, like every other case on property seizures. The Supreme Court decided that officers are immune from actions that are part of their job, and the question of whether the police and city had a right to impound fees for nothing is not what was decided. The justices in the Supreme Court under whom these things have been done are Cliff Taylor, Cavenaugh, Weaver, Kelly, Corrigan, Young and Stephen Markman. We often do not know anything about the judges when we vote. We’ll have to see who made up the majority on that one.

In hindsight, we know that the Detroit police department was hopelessly corrupt. But back then, one could scream bloody murder, and the voters, as well as the executives, would shrug. Kym Worthy simply says that the law allows her office to seize property without filing charges. Tomika Smith, who had a large sum of cash seized because she was driving on I-94 and looked suspicious, says, “The Supreme Court decision gives the police unfettered right to stop and take people’s property for any or no reason. It’s shocking.”

Just a few weeks ago, now fifteen years after the car of my friend was impounded, a fellow hit a street sign, went for help, and found his car had been impounded before he returned. After paying the 1000$ fee, the car broke down due to damage from the accident. My friend helped him put the car in his driveway, to avoid another impound fee. I have since heard they would also charge him for damaging public property, the street sign.

It is an embarrassment to go into the no-brainer basis on which the courts should be deciding these cases. Again, I live in a shed and know these esoteric things, while those arguing and deciding the cases apparently do not have enough money yet. The Fourth Amendment requires that no property be seized without a warrant, and the Fifth that no property be taken without due process of law. In these cases, this means simply that Police do not have a right to use their powers to steal, even if the cities and police departments find stealing profitable. According to the 2009 Detroit News article, the Supreme Court decided that the property of one person may be seized if, even unknown, it is used by another to commit a crime. Following a decision to seize a Spanish ship that attacked us in war, the property itself is treated as though guilty, sidestepping that messy constitutional jargon about persons and rights.

The case of my father is a good example, too. While not flawless, he is a bit of a folk hero over there in Augusta Township. For over two years, he had insisted, even daily, that the Township obey the open meetings act and make the minutes of Township meetings accessible to the citizens according to law. The Township would call the police on him, and instead of enforce the open meetings act, the police would arrest him. Everyone thought he was merely a troublemaker, until his wife uncovered a 1.2 million dollar irregularity in the accounting. This was, as he suspected, the reason for the violation of the open meetings act- the minutes would be incriminating. A detective has since begun an investigation, computers seized and all.

A police memo was leaked in which my father was dangerously slandered. It is very difficult for the common man to try to correct government alone, and easy, in our times, to twist any statement any way one likes. In the face of naked injustice, people get angry. One error is to speak to police as though anything you say will be used in any way other than against you. An example: “McDonald’s tone was hostile and he made statements like “he knew exactly what he needed to do” and included the phrase “their dead asses.” The statement was that public officials doing nothing in the face of obvious abuses are like deceased donkeys. Again, “McDonald made statements that he shot and wounded someone in 1988 which so far is unconfirmed.” This is because he said he once “dropped” a guy who assaulted him with a chair. The memo even uses that he had “no problem giving his life for his country if he feels it would make a difference.” I’m sure the veterans will appreciate this in a list of “mental health issues” supposed to justify that police “use extreme caution when having contact with him or responding to his residence.” Were they setting him up to be shot without consequence? 1.2 million, a lot of people will do a lot for, and these police, every one that follows along, have demonstrated that they will pervert justice for chump change. There is your answer to the Sergeant who asked me if I too thought, like my deranged father, that there is corruption in government. I did not answer then, with the example of Serpico. He was fishing for how much I knew.

“The police” will end up keeping the 1.2 Million$ and his truck and trailer as well. In a recent decision, a judge has cited that same “immunity” familiar from the Odom case. If police have immunity from seizures being questioned, and this is the only question that appears in court, we have, ladies and gentlemen, no longer free government but a tyranny. Our tyranny, though, will not stand up to the Russian tyranny, as they have much more practice at it, nor the Isis tyranny, as they are much more unified and vigorous. So suddenly these domestic issues are the central national security threat. And we have been arguing these fifteen years now that national security requires an end to liberty and the establishment of majority tyranny.

Representative Tim Walberg is working to oppose property seizures by the IRS, and has included the horrendous article from the Free Press on February 23 describing the outright robbery of a legal Marijuana grower. The medicinal thing is looking more and more like a set up, and again, one has an obvious constitutional  right to stay off their handy list. And Jeff Irwin has proposed some correction to the two Michigan laws that allow every petty police department in the nation and their relatives in the chop shops to fleece the poorest of citizens. When the laws are abused, one thing the legislators can do is take away these laws and the powers they have given to police, until the circumstance can be corrected. If the laws and powers are being abused, we need to vote representatives into office who have more kahunas than those flag wavers and cheerleaders, who can take their blow-dried look and go work in advertising or some other job of primping appearances. And judges can just ignore the organized crime payoffs and even offers they can’t refuse. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we the people can put an end to this rubbish being made of our police and courts, insist upon the support of our legislators for the constitution, and vote for those still willing to sacrifice for an America that is still free.

Finally, an interesting implication of the police department rules of procedure is that it allows for the seizure of the police departments themselves, by the FBI,  with far more justification than many of their property seizures. After all, they are in possession of all that contraband, and the FBI is “immune.” We can sort out later their legal right to posses it, and their personal property as well, and we will get them a public defendant for a lawyer, against the FBI’s whiz kids. They surely, by now, fit the description of an ongoing criminal enterprise under the RICO laws. Let them then try to get their property back, and while in prison, read the constitution that they never took time to read before being holstered with the power of life and death over their fellow citizens. This will take the cases out of the hands of our state judges who for a few buck can’t seem to understand the U. S. Constitution. Then we will have to take our chances that the FBI will listen and the Supreme Court judge, but one has to like their odds with the Feds better than these, petty tyrants emboldened by payoffs and favors from organized crime.



Politics 101: The Powers of Congress to Guard the Rights and Liberties of the People

How do we make the executive agencies obey the Constitution?

The question has arisen as to what we want congress to do regarding executive violations of the Fourth Amendment and the Constitution generally. As noted in a previous writing, the reason for the exclusionary rule is that it is the only way the courts can require the executive to obey the Constitution. But Congress has a great deal of power over the unelected agencies within the executive branch, despite their being answerable directly to the President or Governor. The power of oversight is based immediately upon the power of appropriations, called the “power of the purse.” Nothing can be done that costs any money without legislation from congress. Since 1792, congress has conducted investigations of executive actions. Because of this power, congress can ask, and the President can order, the executive agencies to tell the truth regarding violations of the Bill of Rights.

As Martin Diamond explains, Congress “may review in great detail just what has been done and not done before granting any further funds to a program, and make very clear to the administrators what it thinks should have been done in the past and now should be done in the future” (The Democratic Republic, p. 197)

Congress can insist that the executive branch obey the Bill of rights in covert actions both foreign and domestic, by simply refusing to fund certain activities, pulling the plug on the executive even in a line-item way. It can also publicize certain constitutional obscenities, appealing to the people who elect the executive, and elect the members of the same party to their seats in congress.

The executive has tried in the past to raise their own funds, as in the Iran- Contra scandal, but this would not hold up to constitutional scrutiny. The executive cannot choose another legislature to give it money, nor can they set one up for themselves. One begins to wonder, though, about the effect, if not the intention of the property seizures.

The power of Appropriations is deceptively fundamental. It implies the power to monitor how well the money is spent. To do so, congress conducts investigations and holds hearings, like those of the Pike and Church committees of the seventies. It has the power to subpoena the testimony of witnesses and the production of documents. As we have seen, the agencies will lie to congress, but this too has consequences that work to remedy the violation of our fundamental law, the Constitution.

Investigations serve to focus and to influence public opinion. So for example in the Watergate scandal, nothing would have occurred without these powers of congress, or in the Tea pot-Dome scandal, the whole thing would have passed by unknown, if the executive were simply allowed to proceed, as it sometimes does, in what Daniel Inouye described as “arrogant disregard of the rule of law” (NY Times, Cummings and Wise, p. 396).

Congress also has a power over personnel, not only in the power of impeachment, but also in the power to consent to the appointment of major officers of the government. Congress is “the creator of the departments and agencies of the government, and also of the statutes under which they operate and which they enforce” (Diamond, p.196). Section VIII of Article 1 concludes by giving congress the power to make laws necessary for carrying into execution the powers not only of congress, but of “any department or officer” of the government of the United States.

So, it would have been within the powers of the authors of the Patriot Act to include provisions to secure oversight, accountability and meaningful recourse in covert actions, and to conduct hearings pertaining to the violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments resulting from their legislation. Regarding covert domestic actions, congress, by doing its job, can even work to preserve legitimate secrecy, and avoid the tragic twist that our indifference to the Bill of Rights has caused leaks and endangered national security in ways hardly yet imagined. When we hold that persons ordering certain actions be held accountable and that covert actions be made visible at least to a committee of our elected representatives, if not so that damages can be awarded by the courts, we are appealing to the powers of Congress, and to no one else.

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