Thursday, July 16, 2015

Torres v. Goddard (9th Cir. - July 16, 2015)

This panel consists of Judges Reinhardt, Kozinski, and Bybee.  That's a lot of intellectual firepower.

The case arises out of the seizure of thousands of Western Union wire transfers in Arizona.  Between 2001 and 2006, Arizona officials apparently seized every single wire transfer from certain geographic locations to Arizona that exceeded a certain amount (typically, $500 to $2000) during a particular time period.  If, after the seizure, you wanted your money, you had to call a toll-free number and convince the government over the phone that your wire transfer was legitimate.  And if, in its unilateral discretion, they felt like giving your money back to you, they did; otherwise they figured you were engaged in human trafficking and kept your money (and subsequently sought to forfeit it).

It's a pretty stunning seizure.  I had no idea it went down.  The question for the panel was whether there's absolute immunity for the public officers who ordered it.  The Ninth Circuit holds that such immunity exists for the most part (in preparing the seizures), but not in actually executing them.  For that, the district court will have to figure out if there's qualified immunity.

The panel heard the oral argument at UNLV, which I'm certain was fun (and informative) for all those involved.  I'm not exactly sure why the resulting (unanimous) 26-page opinion took over a year and a half to create; that's an awfully long time.

But I'm sure that Judge Kozinski would say you can't rush quality.

Or even nudge it along a little.