Wyoming Liberty Group
Less than a year ago, Norm Eisen, in his capacity as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, convened a campaign finance “Solutions Summit” that brought together a meeting of regulation advocates whose supposed solutions differ about as much as Oxford blue and Midnight blue. It wasn’t a conference; it was a trade show. Around the same time, Eisen co-authored an op/ed repeating an ever-recurring refrain to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enabled corporations and unions to independently speak out about candidates for office. The vitriol directed at corporations by reformers in the wake of the case is difficult to understate.
But a strange thing happened yesterday: Norm Eisen found a reason to love at least one corporation, Nordstrom.
Wyoming’s reform of civil asset forfeiture, which passed unanimously in the 2016 Budget Session, went into effect on July 1. Already, the reform has lived up to its name, which is illustrated by comparing two cash seizure cases—one that began before the reform, and one after.
In the 2016 Budget Session, Senate File 46 passed the Wyoming Legislature without a single vote in opposition. This bill significantly reforms the state’s practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to seize and keep property that is allegedly related to the illegal drug trade without convicting or even charging the owner of a crime.
In the Fall of 2013, I attended a presentation from the Cheyenne Police Department on marijuana enforcement in the city after Colorado’s enactment of its recreational marijuana law the previous year. Chief Brian Kozak was matter-of-fact, and was not there to advocate but to simply update the audience. This was not, however, the posture of various attendees, and Kozak fielded numerous questions from marijuana advocates that were little more than self-righteous critiques of state laws the chief of police has no authority to change.
In two important rulings from the Texas Supreme Court on April 15, the court assured the effectiveness of the state’s Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), which was enacted in 2011. These cases, AgendaWise v. Abraham and Sullivan v. Abraham, affirmed the dismissal of two defamation actions brought by a public figure against an activist and an online news outlet.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently resumed the Equitable Sharing Program, which allows state police agencies to collect civil asset forfeiture funds under federal instead of state law by cooperating with federal drug enforcement. All too often, civil forfeiture laws allow for the government to seize and permanently keep alleged drug proceeds—such as cash, cars and firearms—without convicting or even charging the property owner with a crime.
In the 2015 Wyoming General Session, a bill to limit use of drones—or unmanned aerial surveillance—by the law enforcement failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee after passing the House. The bill was sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Committee following the 2014-15 interim, but underwent amendments on its journey through the legislature that ultimately kept it from going before the Senate. In its original format, the bill would have required police to get a warrant before using drones to conduct searches in criminal investigations. The bill was not considered in the recent 2016 Budget Session, but the topic is certainly not going away.