IJ in the News RSS Feed
September 2, 2014
CNN
Philly police seizing homes
Some homeowners in Philadelphia are losing their homes and it has nothing to do with their ability to pay the mortgage ...   More

September 2, 2014
St. Cloud Times
State must change forfeiture laws
Civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in Minnesota that you’ve likely never heard of ...   More

August 29, 2014
New York Times
With His Parents’ Home at Risk, Atlantic City Piano Man Prepares for a Fight
Anyone who has played Monopoly knows that Oriental Avenue is in a low-rent neighborhood of this surf-and-slots town, whose street names were borrowed in the 1930s by the makers of the game ...   More

August 29, 2014
Associated Press
NH Supreme Court upholds education tax credit law
The state Supreme Court has left intact a New Hampshire law that creates a business education tax credit to fund scholarships to private schools ...   More

August 29, 2014
The Star-Ledger
Atlantic City eminent domain case moves forward as Revel closes
A man fighting a state agency's plan to seize his Atlantic City home near the soon-to-be-shuttered Revel Casino Hotel today returned to court ...   More

August 28, 2014
Wall Street Journal
State Licensing Boards Under Fire From Within
The Supreme Court will take up an antitrust case this fall that could curb the proliferation of state licenses ...   More

August 28, 2014
Chicagoist
The Future Of Food Carts: An Interview With The Street Vendors Justice Coalition
Chicago food carts are frozen in time ...   More

August 27, 2014
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Drug war asset forfeitures draw scrutiny
Concerns exist over how the money is spent and the incentives police have to track particular kinds of criminals ...   More

August 26, 2014
Miami Herald
Street vendors organize, take on Miami laws
Ignoring her aching bones, Esther Ochoa roams the streets of Brickell and Coconut ...   More

August 26, 2014
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee cab companies sue city to stop new ordinance
An ordinance that would revamp the taxi industry in Milwaukee might have just hit a roadblock ...   More

Activist News - Get Active with IJ's Human Action Network
  • A small number of 'grandfathered' wineries that want to keep their mini-monopoly on winery weddings at the expense of their competitors. Talk about a marriage of convenience between government and business.[…] More

  • A misinformed understanding of bees and the nuisance they pose could lead to the unjustified alienation of the constitutionally protected right to food freedom.[…] More


The Forfeiture Machine Turns Cops into Robbers

The most terrifying place in Philadelphia is Courtroom 478 in City Hall. This is where property owners enter Philadelphia’s Civil Forfeiture Machine. Civil forfeiture is a little-known legal device that allows law enforcement officials to take your property, sell it and pocket the proceeds—even if you have done nothing wrong.

Philadelphia’s automated, machine-like forfeiture scheme is unprecedented in size. From 2002 to 2012, Philadelphia took in over $64 million in forfeiture funds—or almost $6 million per year. In 2011 alone, the city’s prosecutors filed 6,560 forfeiture petitions to take cash, cars, homes and other property. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office used over $25 million of that $64 million to pay salaries, including the salaries of the very prosecutors who brought the forfeiture actions. This is almost twice as much as what all other Pennsylvania counties spent on salaries combined.

This is how the city’s forfeiture machine works: Property owners who have their cash, cars or homes seized must go to Courtroom 478. But Courtroom 478 isn’t a courtroom at all: there is no judge or jury, just a scheduler and the prosecutors who run the show. Owners who ask for a lawyer are frequently told their case isn’t complicated and a lawyer isn’t necessary, but are then given a stack of complicated legal documents to fill out under oath. Time and time again, property owners must return to Courtroom 478—up to ten or more times in some cases. If they miss a single appearance, they can lose their property forever.

Philadelphia’s forfeiture machine stacks the deck against property owners and leads city officials to police for profit instead of justice. To end these unconscionable and unconstitutional practices, the Institute for Justice and a group of property owners have brought a major, class-action lawsuit in federal court. The lawsuit will take the profit incentive out of civil forfeiture and protect innocent people who are caught in an upside-down legal process that treats them like cash machines while violating their constitutional rights.

Freedom Flix

The Institute for Justice is always looking for new ways to promote the message of freedom. To that end, IJ produced the following videos in-house to tell the stories of our clients and their fight for individual liberty.

None of this — the cases or these videos — would be possible without the continued generosity of our donors. We hope you enjoy them and share them with those who need a little inspiration.

Subscribe to our videos via iTunes or YouTube.


 The Fight for Braiding Freedom (5:35)
Since the advent of hair braiding more than 5,000 years ago, it has been a simple and safe practice that government has no business regulating. African-style hair braiding uses no dyes or chemicals, and it is safe for braiders to perform.
 Food Trucks and Carts Are Just as Clean as Restaurants (1:07)
Research compares food-safety inspection scores of food trucks, food carts and restaurants in seven major American cities—and finds that street eats are safe eats. www.ij.org/vending
 Licensed Dentist Attacked for Charging Too Little (2:23)
When is it illegal for a licensed dentist in Arkansas to clean teeth? When he also happens to be a licensed orthodontist.
 Gov't grabs elderly man's home; won't give reason (4:10)
New Jersey’s CRDA is trying to use eminent domain to seize Charlie Birnbaum's property as part of a “mixed-use development” project. The trouble is that CRDA has no concrete plans to do anything in particular with it.
 Gov't to Citizens: Want Free Speech? Take a number. (1:15)
Can the gov't pass a law saying that only the first 12 people to vote in an election get to vote for every office, or that only the first 12 people who arrive at church get to stay for the entire sermon?

More videos: Economic Liberty, Private Property, School Choice, First Amendment, All Videos

The National Law Firm for Liberty

“A merry band of libertarian litigators.”
—Columnist George F. Will

Institute Profile: Who We Are

IJ's Merry Band of Litigators

Founded in 1991, the Institute for Justice is what a civil liberties law firm should be. As the national law firm for liberty, we stick to a clear mission engaging in cutting-edge litigation and advocacy both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion on behalf of individuals whose most basic rights are denied by the government.  Our four pillars of litigation are private property, economic liberty, free speech and school choice. Simply put, we seek a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society.

The Institute for Justice is a 501(c)(3) organization; donations are tax-deductible.


 

More About IJ:

Wall Street Journal Weekend Interview with Chip Mellor

The Quest For Justice - the Inaugural Speech Launching the Institute for Justice

The IJ Way - While so many factors contribute to our success—the talents of the people involved, the commitment of our donors, and the pursuit of a strategic litigation plan—nothing is more central to our success than the culture of IJ, which determines the way we do business.

Litigating for Liberty: The Institute for Justice's Chip Mellor on campaign-finance reform, eminent-domain abuse, and licensing laws gone wild - an Interview with Chip Mellor by Reason Magazine's Nick Gillespie.

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Our Record of Success

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- 181 cases litigated in four core mission areas:  economic liberty, property rights, political and commercial speech, and school choice

5 U.S. Supreme Court cases since 2002 (four victories)

70 percent victory rate (through litigation and legislation)

In 2013 alone, won 14 cases, filed 15 new ones, and litigated 22 others.

47 states protected property rights from eminent domain through legislative reform or state supreme court rulings after sole U.S. Supreme Court loss in Kelo v. City of New London 

Over 16,000 homes and businesses saved since Kelo

First favorable U.S. appeals court ruling for economic liberty since the New Deal

More than 200,000 children nationwide benefiting from school choice

35 national awards for our media relations work, publications, and production

Strategic research cited by U.S. Supreme Court and Indiana Supreme Court; used in six IJ briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, three successful cert. petitions, and 13 articles published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals; also cited in 57 articles by other authors in law, public policy, and scholarly journals

Only law school clinic in the nation focusing exclusively on assisting low-income entrepreneurs start exclusively private-sector businesses

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Watch more videos from each of our four pillars of litigation: Economic LibertyPrivate PropertySchool ChoiceFirst Amendment. View All Videos