Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TEXT-BODY OF "DC MADAM'S" APPEAL TO HOUSE & SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEES


CENTER FOR FORFEITURE LAW

1629 K Street, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20006

MONTGOMERY BLAIR SIBLEY 202-508-3699
202-478-0371 (E-FAX)

SIBLEY@CIVILFORFEITURE.COM ...
June 26, 2007

Via Fax (202) 224-9516
Honorable Patrick Leahy
Att: Kristine Lucius
Chair, Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 ...


Via Fax 202-225-7680
Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Chair, Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn House Off ice Building
Washington, DC 20515


Re: Deborah Jeane Palfrey, a/k/a “The D.C. Madam” & The Civil Asset
Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000


Greetings: I write to advise your committees of the flagrant disregard by federal Judge Gladys Kessler, and the D.C. District Court of Appeals of Public Law No: 106-185, which is popularly known as the “Civil Asset Reform Act of 2000” and is codified at 18 U.S.C. §983 et seq. In particular, by enacting 18 U.S.C. §983(f) “Release Of Seized Property”, Congress imposed upon a district court a duty – within 30 days of a motion to return property – to determine if a claimant’s seized property should be “immediately” returned to her.

In Jeane’s case, on October 4, 2006, all of her real and personal property was seized by the U.S. Government upon the allegations of a confidential informant. On November 24, 2006, she made a motion pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §983(f), demanding return of her seized property thereby triggering the Congressionally-imposed thirty (30) day deadline for Judge Kessler to resolve that motion. Remarkably, Judge Kessler denied as moot Jeane's motion to return property on January 8, 2007, apparently relying upon her standing order which rendered all motions moot whenever an amended complaint is filed.

Jeane promptly moved on January 10, 2007, to vacate the January 8, 2007, order as violating the Rules Enabling Act. Additionally, having received no response to the January 10th motion, Jeane filed a second motion to return property on February 27, 2007. To date, two hundred days (200) later, Judge Kessler has not ruled on the two motions to return property and has now stayed Jeane’s forfeiture matter for six (6) months.


Honorable Patrick Leahy
Honorable John Conyers, Jr. June 26, 2007

Page 2



When Jeane sought to appeal this failure of Judge Kessler to resolve the motion to return property as §983(f) contemplates, Judge Kessler held: “[Jeane] also makes a curious argument that ‘the Court does not have jurisdiction to refuse to rule on claimant’s pending motion [to return property].’ All that can be said of this argument is that it is wrong. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction and jurisdiction over the parties; of course it has jurisdiction to enter a stay of all proceedings in the case.” In other words, Judge Kessler has decided that she can ignore §983(f)’s thirty (30) day requirement as Congress’ expression of a right contained in §983(f) is nothing more than aspirational to her.

Additionally, seeking relief from Judge Kessler blatant refusal to rule as Congress has determined appropriate by enacting the thirty (30) day ruling requirement, Jeane sought relief from the D.C. Court of Appeals on April 9, 2007. To date, the Court has refused to rule upon Jeane’s petition. Finally, yesterday the United States Supreme Court refused to address this ignoring of the statute in their Case No.: 06A1110.

As a consequence, Jeane – who property was seized last October solely upon the allegations of unidentified confidential informants – has been rendered indigent, and declared such by the district court. While she now as very competent counsel appointed to represent her in her criminal matter, she still is at the mercy of Judge Kessler for disbursements to pursue her defense, rather than have her own assets available to that end.

Simply stated, Jeane’s case highlights the continued overreaching by the Department of Justice with the complicity of the Article III actors to permit the use of the civil forfeiture process to deny basic due process rights to citizens. Such concern caused your Committees and then Congress seven years ago to address this problem with legislation including §983(f).

Yet now, Jeane’s property has been seized for over seven months without the requisite review of the propriety of such a seizure.As an attorney who practices extensively in the civil forfeiture arena, I can state that Jeane’s predicament is not unusual. Accordingly, your Committees must revisit whether CAFRA is achieving the goals it was meant to reach, or whether it is simply a set of rights without a remedy, as Jeane’s case patently demonstrates.

I am of course available to answer any questions or concerns regarding this aspect – or any other aspect of Jeane’s case. signed, [Montgomery Blair Sibley]