Many politicians pay lip service to the rule of law. For a statute — a legislative enactment — to rise to the dignity of law it must serve justice. Justice is at the very basis of the British common law as influentially set forth in Blackstone's Commentaries. Blackstone summarized the law imported wholesale into the early United States. It is the law that underlies the jurisprudence in most states today. As the Pledge of Allegiance to which I, and so many of us, have taken concludes: "with liberty and justice to all."
Blackstone, in his Commentaries, observes:
"As, therefore, the Creator is a Being, not only of infinite power, and wisdom, but also of infinite goodness, He has been pleased so to contrive the constitution and frame of humanity, that we should want no other prompter than to inquire after and pursue the rule of right, but only our own self-love, that universal principle of action. For He has so intimately connected, so inseparably interwoven the laws of eternal justice with the happiness of each individual, that the latter cannot be attained but by observing the former; and, if the former be punctually obeyed, it cannot but induce the latter. … This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original."
Blackstone, the fountainhead of American law, has been forgotten except by antiquarians (like me). Justice thus wanes. Civil asset forfeiture and disproportionate fines are symptomatic. For the rule of law to be restored to respect we must reverse this travesty.
The Pulitzer Center tells the chilling story of how "the federal government took in $36.5 billion in assets police seized from people on America's roads and in its poorer neighborhoods, many of whom never were charged with a crime or shown to have drugs." That exercise of arbitrary power is a disgrace to Justice. And to America. Per the Pulitzer Center:
"Police watch for suspicious cars with out-of-state license plates and stop them for minor traffic violations, such as changing lanes without a blinker or touching the fog line on the edge of the road. If police find occupants with suspicious stories or mannerisms, they ask to search the vehicle. If they find large amounts of cash and other suspicious circumstances, they seize the cash as drug-related, send it along to the federal government for forfeiture, getting back 80 percent to buy new equipment, computers, jail cells, guns and ammunition."
What sneaky legal loophole could the police be exploiting to confiscate the property of those never found guilty of a crime?
"In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the ancient notion of property as the offender. The case involved a woman named Tina Bennis, whose husband, John, had been caught by the Detroit police having sex with a prostitute in the family car. The authorities declared the car to be a public nuisance and seized it. Tina Bennis, who knew nothing of her husband's escapades, claimed she shouldn't lose her half of the car. The Supreme Court disagreed, 5-4.
"Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist based this decision on an old precedent involving the Palmyra, a ship commissioned as a privateer by the King of Spain to attack U.S. vessels. A 19th-century court ruled "the thing is here considered as the offender." The ship would be seized even if the owner was innocent of the privateering. In the same way, a state could seize the Bennis family car even though Tina Bennis didn't know about her husband's illegal use to cheat on her."
In retrospect this represents a miscarriage of justice. Rehnquist must be turning in his grave.
The Constitution's Fifth Amendment, applying to the federal government, and the 14th Amendment, applying this to the states, provides that no person shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Surely forfeiture of property without trial cannot, whatever its antique antecedents be comfortably considered "due process."
The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution explicitly prohibits excessive fines and, thus, Justice demands that any such fines be proportionate to the severity of the offense and the ability of those adjudicated guilty to pay.
True capitalism is ever rooted in Justice. Always. The Eighth Capitalist Commandment, "Civil asset forfeiture to the federal, state, or any municipal government is prohibited and criminal and civil fines shall be proportional to both the ability of the adjudicated party to pay these and to the severity of the infraction" will, adopted, restore Justice.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. He served as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House, has worked closely with the Congress and two cabinet agencies, and has published over a million words on politics and policy in the mainstream media, as a distinguished professional blogger, and as the author of the internationally award-winning cult classic book "The Websters' Dictionary: How to Use the Web to Transform the World." He has served as senior adviser, economics, to APIA as an advocate of the gold standard, senior counselor to the Chamber of Digital Commerce and serves as general counsel to Frax.finance, a stablecoin venture. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.