What we really need in a forfeiture reform bill – Part 2B: Fixing the holes in CAFRA’s attorney fees provisions

(c) 2015 Brenda Grantland
from Truth and Justice Blog, 3/19/2015

In a previous blog, What we really need in a federal forfeiture reform bill – part 2A, I talked about how the next round of forfeiture reform should repair the gaping holes the courts have gouged into CAFRA’s reforms, particularly those affecting the availability of counsel.  One CAFRA reform that clearly did not hold is the provision requiring the government to pay the attorney’s fees of claimants who substantially prevail.

A Lexis search conducted this week turned up only 23 reported civil forfeiture cases in which CAFRA fees were granted, and 8 civil forfeiture cases where CAFRA fees were denied.  And that was for the entire 15 years since CAFRA was enacted.  That is less than two cases per year! Tens to hundreds of thousands of federal civil forfeiture cases have been litigated in that 15 year period.

Clearly CAFRA’s fee-shifting provisions did not work as planned.  This is another of CAFRA’s reforms that the government has effectively nullified in practice, persuading  courts to interpret the statutes restrictively and illogically to avoid awarding  fees.


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