Tuesday, September 08, 2009

U.S. v. Lam (9th Cir. - Sept. 8, 2008)

Come on, Willie! You're smart. I know you must have thought about it, right? Why not pull the trigger?

The question is whether a fugitive from state court proceedings who's filed a claim in a civil forfeiture action can have his claim struck under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine/statute. Here, the U.S. filed a forfeiture action against currency allegedly traceable to the defendant's crimes (crimes the U.S. then indicted him for), the defendant filed a claim to these funds, the state court then indicted the defendant on 101 counts, and the defendant showed up to two pretrial conferences in state court but then skipped town three days before trial.

Under those circumstances, can you strike the defendant's claim in the forfeiture action? The district court decided you could, and the Ninth Circuit (rightly) agrees.

So what's my beef? Opportunity. To be more precise: Missed opportunity. The defendant's a fugitive. He's fled, and not yet been caught. So Judge Fletcher's constantly calling him a fugitive.

Which is fine. But his name! It's perfect. He's not just a fugitive. He's on the lam. He took it on the lam right before trial. The dude's name is Lam. You can't work that in somehow?!

Trust me: If this was a Kozinski opinion, there'd be about 114 puns and variations on the theme. I kept waiting for at least one from Judge Fletcher. But he played it straight.

Damn him.