Alvarez v. Smith - Oral Argument - October 14, 2009

Alvarez v. Smith

Media for Alvarez v. Smith

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 08, 2009 in Alvarez v. Smith

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 2009 in Alvarez v. Smith

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We will hear argument first this morning in Case 08-351, Alvarez v. Smith.

Mr. Castiglione.

Paul A. Castiglione:

Mr. -- excuse me.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: Despite the holding in Von Neumann that the civil forfeiture hearing itself is all the process that is due for the seizure of personal property, the Seventh Circuit struck down Illinois's Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act specifically because it does not require an additional adversarial hearing that takes place post-seizure but before the forfeiture hearing.

As far back as this Court's decision in Gelston v. Hoyt and Slocum v. Mayberry, this Court has recognized that the civil forfeiture hearing itself is the single unitary hearing, where all persons having an interest in the property are present and the following questions are resolved: One--

Sonia Sotomayor:

Is there any other area -- is there any other area of law where we permit a prejudgment attachment and/or seizure of property without a neutral magistrate reviewing the reason for that seizure?

We don't permit a pretrial attachment, do we, except in some narrow circumstances?

Paul A. Castiglione:

--Except in some narrow circumstances, and I note -- and certainly in garnishment cases and in replevin cases that you would have to have that type of hearing.

But the interests are different here.

The State's interests in the -- in the seized property takes--

Sonia Sotomayor:

But that's--

Paul A. Castiglione:

--I'm sorry.

Sonia Sotomayor:

--I don't deny that there's a State interest.

The question is who tests that interest?

In what time frame?

Meaning you can assert an interest, but someone has to determine whether it really exists or not.

Paul A. Castiglione:

Your Honor, historically, that has always been at the civil forfeiture hearing, and that's going -- as I say, going back to Gelston, because what -- what Gelston recognized is that--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Castiglione, you have been asked to address the mootness question -- both counsel.

Paul A. Castiglione:

--Yes, Your Honor.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Have forfeiture proceedings occurred in the plaintiffs' cases?

Is there any lingering question concerning the status of the property?

Paul A. Castiglione:

No -- Your Honor, the forfeiture cases have concluded, it's true.

We--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Have concluded?

Paul A. Castiglione:

--They have concluded.

The -- there are three -- three of the Respondents sought the return of cars.

Three had had cash seized.

In the three car cases, the cars had actually been returned.

In two of the cash cases, the Respondents defaulted, and in one of the cash cases, the -- the State and the Respondent reached an agreement.

So those cases are over.