ON-Lion Letter

A federal court has handed down a long-awaited decision vindicating North Carolina small-business owner Lyndon McLellan in his fight against the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  McLellan owns the L&M Convenience Mart in Fairmont, N.C.  The IRS seized his entire bank account in July 2014 using civil forfeiture for the innocent act of depositing his hard-earned money in the bank in amounts under $10,000.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., took McClellan's case to clear his name and get back his property, and in June 2015, the government finally returned McClellan's money. 

In returning his money, however, the government sought to avoid its obligation under federal law to pay his attorneys' fees, costs, and interest.  He racked up nearly $20,000 in fees owed to his accountant and lawyer before IJ took his case on a pro bono basis.

The district court's decision rejected the IRS's maneuver. 

"Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized," according to the decision.  "Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. ...  This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded."

The "decision recognizes that Lyndon should not have to pay for the government's outrageous use of civil forfeiture laws against a totally innocent property owner," said IJ attorney Robert Everett Johnson.  "The government took Lyndon’s property even though he did nothing wrong, forcing him into a prolonged and expensive legal nightmare.  Now the government will have to comply with its obligation to make Lyndon at least partly whole."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports IJ.

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