by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
NC House Passes Map Act Repeal Bill
Last week the NC House voted unanimously to approve a bill (HB 183) that would repeal in its entirety a contentious piece of legislation known as the Map Act. As I explained in a previous newsletter, when the General Assembly passed the Map Act in 1987 its declared purpose was "to control the cost of acquiring rights-of-way for the State’s highway system." The Act achieves that purpose by empowering the DOT to create transportation corridors within which both the improvement and the subdivision of land are forbidden, and for many years the DOT has been using that power to control large tracts of land without formally condemning it and without paying compensation to its owners.
As I also explained in the same newsletter, the Map Act repeal bill was filed in response to a recent NC Court of Appeals’ decision holding that, Map Act or no Map Act, if the State wants to control private property for highways and other transportation projects, it must compensate the property’s owners in a just and timely manner. Accordingly, in addition to repealing the Map Act itself, the bill instructs the DOT to "study the development of a process for acquiring land for future highway construction that is in accordance with…Kirby v. NCDOT" and submit a report of its findings within six months.
Repealing the Map Act is undoubtedly the right thing to do, and the passage of HB 183 by the House is very good news for North Carolina property owners. Now we must wait and see how the Senate responds.
A "Depressing" Decision by the Fourth Circuit
In a recent column at Forbes.com, George Leef describes a decision by the US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit:
A young man who was suspected of using marijuana (based on an anonymous tip) is killed by police officers in an unannounced, no-knock raid at 4:30 AM. The police are caught in a lie about the raid (they falsely claimed that they had knocked and announced themselves) in the suit the father of the man brings over his death. The jury awards him $250,000. The police and local officials appeal. Result: the Fourth Circuit quashes that small award (which wouldn’t even have been paid by the officers themselves) and remands, instructing the lower court to order only nominal damages.
George notes that:
The Fourth Circuit’s decision…is especially depressing. It further erodes the protection that the Fourth Amendment was supposed to give Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures, while at the same time sending the message to officers who lie, use needless force, and take lives: we have your back.
Paraphrasing Radley Balko, he adds:
The no-knock raid was created for Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign as a means of appealing to voters who wanted a "tough on crime" president. That has evidently become another bad, ingrained feature of American life — unless someone runs a winning campaign based on appealing to voters who understand that the government has become far too powerful and dangerous.
More Asset Forfeiture News
In a previous newsletter I discussed an asset forfeiture reform bill (the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration or "FAIR" Act) that was introduced in January by US Senator Rand Paul. At Reason.com, Scott Shackford reports that last week, when Sen. Paul testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the bill:
He also took an opportunity to blast Loretta Lynch, current nominee for attorney general, for her role in facilitating hundreds of millions in civil forfeiture during her time as a U.S. attorney in New York and not filing paperwork properly to allow citizens to try to resist (Paul has also publicly said he will not vote to confirm Lynch’s nomination).
Since introducing the FAIR Act, Senator Paul has announced that he is running for President, and his opposition to civil asset forfeiture is just one of many ways in which his campaign makes an appeal to voters "who understand that the government has become too powerful and dangerous." It remains to be seen whether it will be a "winning campaign," but the fact that it is taking place at all suggests that appealing to voters who care about the Bill of Rights may eventually become a winning strategy. Maybe this time the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act will pass. And, who knows, maybe we’ll eventually see a Fourth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act as well.
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