So there I am, reading Norm Pattis’s latest missive:
The government has seized the life savings of a hard working couple whose son was growing marijuana in their basement. The feds also want to seize the couple’s home. There is no evidence to suggest the couple was complicit in their child’s activity. None. The pot was in a remote corner of the basement behind a wall. You could live in that house for a decade and never go close to the location of the plants.
But that hasn’t stopped the government from launching what in the law is known as in rem proceeding: The government brings an action against the things, in this case the money and the house. My clients must interpose a defense of innocent ownership to get their lives back. You see, not only did they lose their life savings, but the publicity surrounding the arrest and search of the home cost them their jobs. They are living on the edge of economic extinction while the government sits sassily on their money. I am trying to get the money back.
The government’s lawyer was smug during the conference. The money can be tied up for years, he reported.
I’ve written about this civil forfeiture process before. I think it’s a really evil law. I don’t know if it literally makes my blood pressure rise, but I can sure feel myself tense up at the thought of it. In a country in which people are are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, the prosecutors and the cops aren’t playing by the rules we all agreed on. In other words, they are criminals–thieves and highwaymen–and should be treated as such.
But they aren’t ever brought to justice, because these criminals are operating within the justice system itself. They have subverted our government and perverted our legal system. They are tyrants, and I say to hell with them.
At this point in Norm’s story, I was pretty pissed off, and while I’m not a violent person, I was not feeling kindly toward Norm’s adversary. And apparently, neither was Norm:
“Judge, when I hear my government talk like this I understand why the Murrah building went up in smoke in Oklahoma City, or why folks think it fit to fly airplanes into Internal Revenue Service buildings,” I said. “I’m leaving before I do something I regret.” I walked out leaving co-counsel to pick up the pieces.
It’s because of things like this that the tagline I use for Norm’s blog in the sidebar is “Norm will fight for you!”
Still, Norm’s not proud of his reaction:
I should not have lost my temper. It was unprofessional, and it did not advance my client’s interests
I’m sure that’s true. Norm took on an obligation to his client, and he should have controlled himself better. However, it’s an understandable reaction. His violent emotions are the normal human reaction to encountering a situation so unfair and so unjust. So while Norm may feel guilty for risking his clients’ welfare with his outburst, there’s no shame in the emotions themselves.
In the parking lot later, I spoke to the Assistant United States Attorney handling the matter. I apologized for losing my cool. We are old friends, you see, and have handled cases together now for nearly two decades.
Norm, I hate to tell you this, but your friend is a monster. The evidence I offer is that he is doing monstrous things.