The Instigator
logicrules
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
bluesteel
Con (against)
Winning
9 Points

Bennis v. Michigan opened the door to Bills of Pain and Penalty in the USA

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
bluesteel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/5/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,916 times Debate No: 19140
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (16)
Votes (3)

 

logicrules

Pro

In Bennis v. Michigan, (1996) 517 U.S. 1163 The United States supreme Court made it possible for any Municipality to create a class of persons Guilty untill Proved innocent. This was done in direct violation of Art. I sec. 9 of the US Constitution prohibitiing Bills of Attainder and ex post facto.

Pro asserts that by and through the above Case it is now legal in the USA for any City, Stoate, or The Federal Goverment to classify a group of persons as crimminal without trial, and take from them liberty and/or property.

Con shall hold that the above case does not permit the making of these groups.

Proof shall be preponderance, as requiered by above cited case.

Order of Sources
1. US Suprememe Court Cases
2. Federal COurt Cases
4. State Supreme Couts
5. Transcripts of Legislative Debates to establish intent

Definitions shall come from 1 above or Black's law Dictionary ONLY.

bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the debate logicrules.

I await your case proving that Bennis v. Michigan allows Bills of Attainder, which are bills classifying certain groups as criminals (without a trial). An example of a Bill of Attainder would be a considered English law during WWII that would have ordered the summary execution of all suspected Nazis living in England.

I will assert that you have GROSSLY misinterpreted the Bennis Supreme Court decision.

The case was as follows: Tina Bennis' husband had sex with a prostitute in their car. The State of Michigan, in an attempt to clean up bad neighborhoods, had passed a law stating that property used for crimes, such as prostitution, would be forfeit. The goal was to confiscate and clean up decrepit buildings and cars (used in crime) in bad neighborhoods. Under the Michigan statute, the Bennis' old Pontiac sedan was confiscated and sold for $600. The district court judge said he would have given Tina Bennis half of the car's sale value but there was nothing left, after accounting for the costs of selling it (listing it, advertising it, paying a broker, etc). [1]

There is a long history of case law in asset forfeiture cases. There are two types of asset forfeiture: criminal and civil. Criminal asset forfeiture is when the State seizes your property because it was used in a crime, and they need it in order to provide evidence against the criminal at trial. [2] The innocent owner defense - that the owner is innocent of the crime - is clearly not a sufficient defense in these cases. If I loan my friend a gun and he shoots someone with it, I cannot demand my gun back from the police since they need it as evidence. Civil forfeitures deal with seizing property as punishment for some crime. The Supreme Court cited multiple precedents that the innocent owner defense did not apply in civil forfeitures either. [1] They did say that Tina Bennis may have had a claim to half the car's value (minus the cost of selling it), but that was irrelevant in this case since there was no money left after the sale; the Supreme Court did note that the district court judge DID have the discretion to award Ms. Bennis half the car's asset value. In legal jargon, this means that the Supreme Court "refused to establish a precedent" regarding whether innocent owners need to have their share of the property compensated, since that was not at issue in this case.

There are many objections to Bennis v. Michigan, but no one argues that it allows Bills of Attainder. [3] Nowhere in the decision does it say that the state of Michigan may classify Ms. Bennis as a criminal. If her husband commits a crime, she may forfeit the property used in commission of that crime, but she's not classified as a criminal.

I now turn the debate over to my esteemed opponent.

[1] http://www.law.cornell.edu...
[2] http://www.fbi.gov...
[3] http://www.nesl.edu...
Debate Round No. 1
logicrules

Pro


In US v. Brown (1965) the court held that any statute making a class is a violation of Article I sec 9 against Bills of Attainder. In that case the law making it illegal for a member of the communist party to hold an office was challenged.


Thus the Bill of Attainder Clause not only was intended as one implementation of the general principle of fractionalized power, but also reflected the Framers' belief that the Legislative Branch is not so well suited as politically independent judges and juries to the task of ruling upon the blameworthiness, of, and levying appropriate punishment upon, specific persons. (US v Brown)


Justice Thomas states in his concurring opinion


As the Court notes, evasion of the normal requirement of proof before punishment might well seem "unfair." (emp added) Ante, at 11. One unaware of the history of forfeiture laws and 200 years of this Court's precedent regarding such laws might well assume that such a scheme is lawless--a violation of due process.


The Court is upholding taking without a requirement of Proof. The Court in this case, is about making LEGAL and lawful that which seems lawless.


“…to have the car declared a public nuisance and abated as such..."


First, to support the majority decision, the Court cited Admiralty Law from 1827 re. Piracy and privateers. Thus, the high seas of the early nineteenth century are compared with the streets of Detroit Michigan. The Palmyra, 12 Wheat. 1 (1827) Next, the Justice cites a tax case Dobbins's Distillery v. United States, 96 U.S. 395, 401 (1878) where the Court took the real property of an individual for taxes due from the tenant.


The Court then makes an interesting jump to Contract Law where part of the purchase contract involved continued use by the seller. Van Oster v. Kansas, 272 U.S. 465 (1926) and "It has long been settled that statutory forfeitures of property entrusted by the innocent owner or lienor to another who uses it in violation of the revenue laws... ” I point out that that this is about REVENUE laws, taxes of the time.


The Court then Jumps to Drug laws combined with Admiralty Law Calero Toledo v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663 (1974). A small amount of residual cannabis being found on a yacht, well known for its transport of drugs was seized.


The Court then held that in order for an act of taking without trial to be lawless in must be for the purpose of punishment, if for any other reason it is permissible. This is the rationale of the Court in its majority opinion which in practice becomes, if a group is engaging in actions or behavior we do not like we can recover costs by taking property.


The State here sought to deter illegal activity that contributes to neighborhood deterioration and unsafe streets. The Bennis automobile, it is conceded, facilitated and was used in criminal activity. Both the trial court and the Michigan Supreme Court followed our longstanding practice, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Michigan


The Court states that the taking of property is to deter illegal activity, so long as said activity contributes to neighborhood deterioration and unsafe streets.


In Bennis the issue is forfeiture or property. The forfeiture is without trial, and in all fifty states is now done based on the statement of a Police officer and/or failure to file the proper forms. Thus we now have classes or groups of people who are routinely “punished” to get a cleaned up neighborhood. These classes include, but are not limited to, those who seem to be: Drug Users, or looking for paid for sex, driving w/o insurance, etc. Other areas where this case has recently been used are noncriminal offences where cities can increase revenue and “clean things up”.


The offense that started this case was and is a misdemeanor. The Court has legalized on US streets, through admiralty law regarding pirates, nuisance laws intended for tax collection before income and property taxes, Drug Laws used to sieze foreign ships and finally through the court’s use of “remedial rather than punitive” the government may now take our property to conform our behaviors.


A bill Pain and Penalty is the same as a Bill of Attainder but without the execution. I have shown that this case permits jurisdictions in the United States to take property from its citizens without a trial or a finding of guilt but simply because an individual engages in behavior deemed, at that time, negative to the neighborhood so long as the taking is not punitive. In its goodness the Court kept the trial for the other punishment so one might lose a house and be found not guilty.


Justice tevens put it best ... the Court errs today by assuming that the power to seize property is virtually unlimited...



bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the quick reply logicrules.

Nowhere did I claim that Bennis was a good decision. But there's a big difference between being a bad decision and allowing BILLS OF ATTAINDER.

==Michigan's law was NOT a Bill of Attainder==

Remember the example I gave of a Bill of Attainder: Winston Churchill during WWII proposed a law in England that would have allowed the summary execution of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. This is a Bill of Attainder because it declares all Nazis and Nazi sympathizers to be criminals without allowing them a trial. Just because someone is a Nazi sympathizer DOES NOT mean they had spied for the Nazis, had killed British citizens, or had sabotaged military installations. The theory of justice in a democracy requires that treason charges be proved at trial, not legislated into existence.

The Michigan law was NOT a Bill of Attainder. It said that people who were guilty of COMMITTING A CRIME inside certain properties (cars, buildings, airplanes, boats) could forfeit those properties as punishment. Mr. Bennis was CAUGHT having sex with a prostitute in his old Pontiac. If he was found innocent at trial (of having sex with a prostitute), the car would have been returned to him.

Thus, the law leaves it to the courts to determine whether certain behavior was criminal. As such, it cannot be a Bill of Attainder.

As the Court said in it's concluding statements, a key part of the case was that "The Bennis automobile, it is conceded, facilitated and was used in criminal activity." Ms. Bennis AGREED that the car had been used in criminal activity. In her petition to the Supreme Court, she never alleged her husband to be innocent.

==The Constitution==

My opponent listed, correctly, that Supreme Court cases take precedent over circuit court cases, which take precedent over district court cases. However, the Constitution supersedes even the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court cannot rule a Constitutional provision "unconstitutional" or overrule it in any other way. Since the Constitution forbids Bills of Attainder, there's simply no way that this case COULD allow them. If a city, state, or Congress passed a Bill of Attainder and the case was brought before the Supreme Court, the Court would have no choice but to overrule the Bill of Attainder.

It's also clear the Court WOULD do so since they make it clear in the Bennis decision that their intent was NOT to allow the unjust seizing of property. The Court makes it clear in their decision that they would FEEL DIFFERENTLY about awarding Ms. Bennis her stake in the property, had it not been clear from the lower court that there was no money left after the sale of the automobile.

The Supreme Court writes, "At bottom, petitioner's claims depend on an argument that the Michigan forfeiture statute is unfair because it relieves prosecutors from the burden of separating co owners who are complicit in the wrongful use of property from innocent co owners. This argument, in the abstract, has considerable appeal . . . Its force is reduced in the instant case, however, by . . . the trial court's remedial discretion."

The majority opinion explains that each forfeiture is accompanied by a forfeiture proceeding, which is a court hearing where innocent co-owners can petition the court for their share in the property. These forfeiture proceedings check any potential government abuses of forfeiture law in seizing property.

== precedent vs. not precedent ==

When you read a Supreme Court case, there are parts of the decision that are considered "precedent setting," and there are merits of the case that the Court refuses to rule upon, as to not set a precedent. The Court typically tries to rule as narrowly as possible on cases. The only precedent setting part of this decision is that the "innocent owner defense" is still invalid. However, this is not a departure from previous law. The innocent owner defense was never considered valid in forfeiture proceedings, which is precisely why the Court had to reach so far back to find precedent, since no one has bothered challenging the Court on the innocent owner defense in many, many years.

==Is this a radical decision?==

My opponent makes this out to be a radical decision. It is not. It merely upholds past precedent. As the Court said, "We conclude today, as we concluded 75 years ago, that the cases authorizing actions of the kind at issue are 'too firmly fixed in the punitive and remedial jurisprudence of the country to be now displaced.'"

The innocent owner defense has ALWAYS been considered invalid, at least for the past 75 years. If this allows Bills of Attainder, then why haven't we ALREADY seen Bills of Attainder?

I'm interested to see my opponent's response to this question.
Debate Round No. 2
logicrules

Pro

The innocent owner defense has ALWAYS been considered invalid, at least for the past 75 years. If this allows Bills of Attainder, then why haven't we ALREADY seen Bills of Attainder?

Simple, see US v Brown. This is not about Bills of Attainder, it is about Bills of Pain and Penalty...which were incorporated into the article cited by Brown. Thus, you have not addressed the issue at hand, clearly stated in the debate perameters. As to why you have not seen Bills of Attainder, I have no way of knowing.

Also, you may note, I never argued that innocent owner was the actual issue of this debate. Were Mrs. Bennis Lawyers not the best, probably. The issue though is what some may call the unintended concequence of justification of wrong action. Every time you say attainder you miss the mark, read the caption of the Debate.

I take it you accept the doctrine of Stare Decisis. Thus, opinions claims notwithstanding, Bills of Pain and Penalty exist is every State in the Union. eg Requierment to BUY car insurance, failure to BUY, Guilt and fine w/o trial. There is a distinction between a Bill of Pain and Penalty and/or Attainder.

You agree then, the Case permits Bills of Pain and Penalty and allows the creation as a matter of law, classifications of persons from whom property, and/or liberty may be taken without trial but merely because of their class. Thank You.
bluesteel

Con

Thanks for the debate logicrules. Interesting (and desperate) final round tactic, but ultimately it fails.

A Bill of Pain and Penalty is "a special act of a legislature which inflicts a punishment less than death upon persons supposed to be guilty . . . without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings." [1]

John Buvier Law Dictionary writes that: "bills of attainder include bills of pains and penalties." [2]

So Bills of Pain and Penalty are a type of Bill of Attainder. They are a subset. The only way they differ is that they cannot include death as a punishment.

As anyone can now see, a requirement to buy car insurance is not a "Bill of Pain and Penalty." It does not assert that certain people are criminals, without trial. A bill that deprived all Japanese people of their homes during WWII, assuming they were all spies, THAT would be a Bill of Pain and Penalty.

My opponent claims he "never argued that the innocent owner defense was the actual issue of this debate." The problem is that the Bennis decision was supposed to deal EXCLUSIVELY with the innocent owner defense, affirming 75 years of precedent that this defense was invalid. My opponent specified that this debate was about the Bennis decision. It's not MY fault that he's grossly misinterpreted the case.

Here is a summary of the case: "Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442 (1996), was a decision by the United States Supreme Court, which held that innocent owner defense is not constitutionally mandated by Fourteenth Amendment Due Process in cases of civil forfeiture."

Nowhere does the Bennis decision "allow the State to classify certain groups as GUILTY until proved innocent." Yet this is what my opponent claimed he would prove in round 1.

The two key arguments here are that: 1) Ms. Bennis' husband was a criminal and engaged in criminal conduct in their car. Ms. Bennis did not contest this fact. In fact, in oral argument, she didn't even contest the state of Michigan's right to SELL the car, she merely wanted her half. 2) The district court, during the forfeiture proceeding, COULD HAVE given Ms. Bennis her stake in the car, but the car was cr@ppy and there was no money left after the sale.

In fact, my opponent has pointed out time and time again that a Bill of Pain and Penalty requires forfeiture WITHOUT A TRIAL. The Supreme Court affirmed, time and time again, the need to hold a forfeiture proceeding, which is a TRIAL where the owners can petition on their behalf.

Since no one claims Ms. Bennis, the petitioner, was guilty and since there WAS a trial (forfeiture proceeding), the resolution is negated on both grounds.

[1] http://www.thefreedictionary.com...
[2] http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com...
Debate Round No. 3
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
LOL mmm methinks you may not read as well as you believe.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
I understand english, bro... It's not that I don't understand your "terms," it's that you're wrong.

I'm perplexed that someone who purportedly went to law school apparently knows so little about how the legal world works. If a state passed a Bill of Pain and Penalty, it would obviously go to the Supreme Court and be overturned. If you argued in front of 8* of the smartest justices in the U.S. that their Bennis decision allowed such a bill, you'd get laughed out of oral argument.

*I know there are 9 total, but Clarence Thomas is not smart

Do you seriously believe the U.S. in the verge of starting to legally kill Jews b/c of the Bennis decision?

Find any law reviews to back up what you're saying? Does a SINGLE person in the legal profession agree with you?
Posted by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
exactly. Apologies prior....I try to post what mean, I use words with great specificity. Kindly read them that way, otherwise I might as well use Latin. OPENS THE DOOR, Class of Person, NO TRIAL....

That's the point. Distinctions without differences.

Presumption of Innocence is a Principle of or system. Absent that principle, the opposite becomes the case. All of the killings of Jew in Nazi Germany were Legal. It seems we have lost the ability to distinguish between legal and Right. Re-Read the standards Blue, try to understand the difference between terms.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
1. Drug forfeiture laws => drugs are contraband. Even if you're found innocent at trial of drug possession, they are not going to give the drugs back to someone. Drugs are special.

2. Car forfeiture => when you say "for certain offenses" what you mean is that there is a criminal trial. If you're found innocent at trial, the state must return your car.

3. Cash forfeiture => the government can seize your cash (like if you're taking $200,000 on an airplane) if and only if they have proof that the cash is being used fora crime or is FROM crime (and about to be laundered). If they can't prove these charges, you get your cash back. There may be restrictions, though, on how much cash you can bring on an airplane, due to money laundering concerns, but cash transfers across state lines are covered by the Interstate Commerce clause.

4. Car insurance/loss of license => driving is a privilege, not a right, which is why the State can take your license away if you refuse to buy car insurance. Those are the precise words that the case law uses: "privilege not a right."

5. "Word of a police officer" - you seem really concerned about this. In criminal trials, if a cop sees you doing drugs, for example, they can take your "stuff" without a trial (i.e. pending trial). Are you saying criminal forfeiture should not be allowed? Should we let all criminals go free because we can't seize property for trial?

The court said forfeiture law was to rooted in our criminal codes to change. That was their conclusion.

You said you went to law school. Doesn't it bother you that you can't find a single law review that argues that Bennis opens the door to Bills of Pain and Penalty?
Posted by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
The point is...no longer is there a court proceeding to take property, and Bennis..OPENED the door and is cited as te DECISIS for all FORFEITURE w/o trial. example
1. Drug forfeiture laws....FED
2. Car forfeiture....Local, the county takes your car when you are cited for certain offenses
3. Cash forfeiture Local and State....No car insurance means, fine, loss of license and fees....no trial

The government can legally take your property on the word of a police officer iin every jurisdiction in the USA. Try to take 10kin cash on an airplane....they will seize it, and you will have to sue to get it back, bu the rules of that trial put the burden on you, not the govenment.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
There are actually two court proceedings: one to convict the husband of employing a prostitute and another civil forfeiture proceeding to decide what to do with the car.
Posted by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
The car is gone.....no trial
Posted by logicrules 5 years ago
logicrules
naw, left out for all intents and purposes.
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
lol, logicrules, starting in the last round you keep leaving out "create classes of people who are GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT"
Posted by bluesteel 5 years ago
bluesteel
The last round should clarify what "Bills of Pain and Penalty" are
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Chthonian 5 years ago
Chthonian
logicrulesbluesteelTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con soundly and logically established a convincing argument that upholds his and the Supreme Courts position. Pro does a good job of parsing out the problems he sees with the opinion of the majority, but oversimplifies the ramifications of the Bennis decision. Overall this was a great debate to read. Thanks
Vote Placed by Greyparrot 5 years ago
Greyparrot
logicrulesbluesteelTied
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Reasons for voting decision: If I understand this correctly, the car is only temporarily seized pending the outcome of a trial. How is this different from seizing a person temporarily and putting him in jail pending a trial outcome? (which I would think be more serious)
Vote Placed by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
logicrulesbluesteelTied
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Reasons for voting decision: The seizure pisses me off, but Con has refuted this specific resolution.