Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Class action certified in Tenaha asset forfeiture cases

Extraordinary! A federal judge has certified a class action suit against officials in the East Texas town of Tenaha who allegedly scammed motorists using asset forfeiture laws. Reports KTRE out of Lufkin:
United States District Judge T. John Ward filed his decision on Monday to certify a lawsuit alleging an illegal interdiction program by various Tenaha and Shelby County officials as class action. It wasn't long afterwards that plaintiff's attorney Tim Garrigan got requests for interviews.

Texas Lawyer reporters, local media and even national news outlets, including CNN and the Wall Street Journal, have been following the case over the years. The decision is significant in the legal efforts to stop illegal search and seizures and questionable 'interdiction' programs.

In the 58 page class action certification decision Garrigan said the circumstances are what stood out.
"It (the ruling) pretty strongly suggested that their (officials) interest was taking the money," said Garrigan.

A former constable testified as many as 1,000 people were stopped for traffic violations to look for narcotics trafficking. Most were minorities.

The only trouble is, "the police would say that their dog alerted on drugs and that they could smell marijuana, but they never found it," said Garrigan.

Nevertheless, when money was found it was often kept by officials. In exchange, the driver was free to go.

"There was never any real intention to prosecute anybody criminally," claims Garrigan.
KTRE put the judge's full order online here.


Soronel Haetir said...

I was going to write something pretty skeptical of this certification but after reading the order I am convinced that it's the right move. I do think it's significant that the money damages portion of the claim was not certified for class resolution (and that was going to be the basis of my skepticism before reading the order).

Unfortunately, without the money damages I'm not sure this remains an important case. I can easily see the city saying, "Oh, sure, we shut down the interdiction program" but just continue on with the same behavior just not giving it a name.

And did they ever start compiling the racial data as required by law?

Anonymous said...

We got the bastards!!

rodsmith said...

what needs to happen is the people they are ilegally stealing from need to treat them like any other crook caught in the act!

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice that the K-9 Bo kept "hitting" on cars that weren't transporting but the supposed ability of the dog to ID drugs by scent was (and still is) considered probable cause? Since the failures of the dog to properly ID drugs is never documented, the officer never has to justify the dog's abilities (or inability) in court. It's simply assumed that it's track record is impeccable.:~)

Anonymous said...

8:12 makes a good point. The accuracy of these dogs has been grossly overstated by folks in law enforcment. At best they have about 50% false positive rate. Can something that's only right about half the time really establish probable cause? Furthermore, the behavior mentioned in the story, the cop lying about the dog hitting, is common place. You can watch the dashcam video and its clear the dog didn't do anything but the officer will say it was a passive hit. Some officers will blatantly lie in court about the dog's success rate. If the dog hits on a car and no drugs are found they will just assume the car had drugs in it before and the dog is picking up traces that remain. By doing that they can say the dog has a 100% accuracy rate. These dogs are just tools the officers use to trample on the Fourth Amendment. This is another area, like the junk science talked about repeatedly here, that needs to be challenged and exposed for the farce it is.

Anonymous said...


I've been told, that unlike drug dogs, bomb dogs have to document success and failures, both in a training scenario and outside of one for what its worth (including false positives).:~)

Anonymous said...

I've also transported a couple of hundred kilos of coke in the trunk of my car for a short distance yet 24 ours later a drug dog (military) couldn't hit on it.:~)

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