What we really need in a forfeiture reform bill- Part IC: Court appointed counsel implemented

(c) 2014 Brenda Grantland
Truth and Justice Blog, 11/13/2014

CAFRA court appointments are a rarity

In my last blog I discussed the provisions of CAFRA (the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000) authorizing appointment of counsel for civil forfeiture claimants who are indigent, and the level of funding Congress expected to pay for these defense attorneys.  The Congressional Budget Office report for CAFRA stated:

Assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 1658 would cost $9 million over the 2001-2005 period to pay for additional costs of court-appointed counsel that would be authorized by this legislation.

Apparently that $9 million figure refers only to the projected cost of court-appointed counsel under 18 U.S.C. § 983(b)(1), which authorizes but does not require the judge to appoint counsel for indigent claimants who have charges pending for the offenses that triggered civil forfeiture.

The CBO has a separate estimate for the projected costs of court-appointed counsel for indigent claimants whose primary residence is seized, where the statute requires the appointment of counsel if the claimant requests.

H.R. 1658 also would require the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to represent certain claimants in civil forfeiture cases and would require the federal government to reimburse the LSC for its costs. CBO estimates that this provision would increase direct spending by $5 million over the 2001-2005 period….

So how much have they actually spent to provide counsel?  I have not been able to determine that but I am certain it is a tiny fraction of the amount Congress expected them to spend on providing defense counsel.