Federal Judge: Albuquerque’s Civil Forfeiture Practices Are Unconstitutional

Albuquerque, New Mexico

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hand-foot-and-mouth disease in Iowa … Minneapolis mayor wants you to eat less meat … and PFAS contamination in Michigan drinking water.

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, July 31, 2018. Kicking off Route Fifty’s roundup of state and local government news is a federal judge’s ruling in Albuquerque that could make waves in other cities. Scroll down for that and more, including stories from Norfolk, Virginia; Montgomery, Alabama; and Waltham, Massachusetts.

LAW ENFORCEMENT | In case being closely watched by civil libertarians and police officials, U.S. District Court Judge James O. Browning ruled Monday that the city of Albuquerque’s civil forfeiture practices are unconstitutional. Browning wrote in his ruling that the city “has an unconstitutional institutional incentive to prosecute forfeiture cases, because, in practice, the forfeiture program sets its own budget and can spend, without meaningful oversight, all of the excess funds it raises from previous years.” The Institute for Justice brought the legal action against New Mexico’s largest city on behalf of Arlene Harjo, whose car was seized by the Albuquerque Police Department after her son borrowed her car to go to the gym and instead used it for a day-long trip where he was stopped for allegedly driving while intoxicated. “The court ruled the government must prove that an owner did something wrong before it can take away their property. Beyond that, the judge ruled that law enforcement cannot benefit financially from revenue generated by a forfeiture program. Together, these rulings strike at the heart of the problem with civil forfeiture,” Institute for Justice attorney Robert Everett Johnson said in a statement. [Institute for Justice; Albuquerque Journal]

  • Chicago, Illinois: Anti-violence protesters plan to shut down Lake Shore Drive and march on Wrigley Field late Thursday afternoon ahead a Cubs game that night. [Chicago Tribune; WLS-TV]
  • Memphis, Tennessee: Spying on activists by the Memphis Police Department is worse than was thought. [CityLab]
  • Helena, Montana: Montana’s private-prison decision puts Gov. Steve Bullock at odds with the ACLU. [Great Falls Tribune]
  • New Milford, Connecticut: One local council member said that the decision to not renew the police chief’s contract “should be up for discussion and explained by the mayor and the director of personnel.” But they aren’t talking. [Connecticut Post]
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EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT | Numerous wildfires continue to rage across California, including the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties, which has killed at least six people, and the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park, which has killed two people. Meanwhile, the Mendocino Complex fires in Mendocino and Lake counties are prompting evacuations as firefighters try to bring the explosive blazes under control. The rarely seen fire tornadoes that were produced by the Carr Fire are being studied by a San Jose State University fire weather professor and graduate students to help forecast fire intensity in future wildfires. [Los Angeles Times; Sacramento Bee; KGO / ABC7]  

  • Norfolk, Virginia: Waze already helps Norfolk track flooding. Soon, it could predict the future. [The Virginian-Pilot]
  • Chatham County, Georgia: Local public works crews began removing debris on Monday following a F1-strength tornado tore through the Whitemarsh Island area on Friday. [WTOC]

PUBLIC HEALTH | Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is urging residents of Minnesota’s largest city to ditch eating meat for at least one day a week. “If each American affirmatively chose to eat plant-based food at just one meal per week, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off U.S. roads," the mayor said in a proclamation issued earlier this month. [CityPages]

  • Des Moines, Iowa: A “mild but highly contagious” form of hand-foot-and-mouth disease has been circulating around Iowa and public health officials are urging those who come down with it to stay at home until symptoms subside. [Radio Iowa]
  • Augusta, Maine: A state senator has sued Maine Gov. Paul LePage for failing to hire public health nurses, something mandated by a law LePage supported. [Portland Press-Herald]
  • Parchment, Michigan: Bottled-water deliveries continued in the Kalamazoo County community of Parchment, where high levels of PFAS in local drinking water triggered a state of emergency this weekend. [MLive.com]

TECH & DATA |  For the past six months, the New York Police Department has “failed to comply with the law requiring the department to make public demographic and location data related to subway fare evasion.” [amNY]

  • Raleigh, North Carolina: The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles suffered a software meltdown on Monday that suspended services. [The News & Observer]
  • Lincoln, Nebraska: Gov. Pete Ricketts has announced new members for the state’s rural broadband task force. [Gov. Rickett’s Office via Fence Post]
  • Montgomery, Alabama: This weekend, Pittsburgh-based Roadbotics wrapped up its work to analyze 200 miles of road pavement in Montgomery to help the city make selecting road improvement projects “less subjective as budget talks draw near and the annual tussle over paving needs begins.” [MontgomeryAdvertiser.com / AL.com]

BRIEFLY NOTED | Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order that suspends a jet fuel tax targeting Delta Air Lines. [USA Today] … The Seattle City Council approves legislation that authorizes the expansion of the city’s dockless bikeshare program [SCC Insight] ... Police in Texas are looking for a trio who stole a shark from the San Antonio Aquarium this weekend [KSAT] … In Waltham, Massachusetts, it’s priests vs. city officials in a bitter battle over 46 acres of prime real estate [The Boston Globe] … Housing activists protest outside the home of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser [Curbed DC] … and a lawsuit in the recent fatal duck boat crash near Branson, Missouri seeks $100 million [NBC News] ...

ALSO on Route Fifty:

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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