Rep. Steve Stockman Tried to Abolish Civil Asset Forfeiture on His Way Out
Congressman Steve Stockman has basically, essentially, technically left the building as far as actually being a member of the U.S. Congress. Sure, there's still a sort of hangover effect until January rolls around and Congress actually goes back into session, but either way Stockman is heading home to Texas and staying here, at least for the foreseeable, assumable future.
This fun fact makes one of his last acts as a member of the 2014 Congress downright charming, as if a dog had suddenly noticed that people were annoyed by all the eating of slippers and stood up on its hind legs and started tap dancing like Fred Astaire. In Stockman's case the congressman actually went and filed a bit of legislation that actually makes some sense.
Congress has already been let out for the holidays, but before all the politicians scampered away Stockman filed House Resolution 5847. The resolution, if it had gained any traction, would have abolished civil asset forfeiture, the legal process that allows police to take assets from people suspected of a crime or general illegal activity (i.e. you, if the police have decided you might not be up to entirely legal things). The catch being, the police don't necessarily have to charge and convict the owners of said stuff to seize the property, which is why a lot of people aren't fans this particular (and somehow legal) tactic.
Stockman's resolution proposed to abolish civil asset forfeitures by restoring the Fifth Amendment, the one about the right to not be deprived of property without the due process of law. Specifically the change would have made it so no property could be seized under civil forfeiture law. Plus, federal agencies would have been banned from participating or benefiting from any civil asset forfeitures carried out by state or local agencies. But don't think this would have cut off all property seizing. Law enforcement would still have been allowed to take the property belonging to those actually convicted of a criminal offense and contraband would have stayed totally within their seizing powers.
However, Stockman's proposal wasn't really something law enforcement needed to worry about. The law was introduced on Dec. 10 and kicked over to the House Judiciary Committee. Then HR 5847 basically stayed right there and died in committee. Things were kind of hectic around Capitol Hill after all, what with all the hubbub as the bulk of Congress scrambled to cobble together a budget deal and prevent another government shutdown. They managed to that and avoid shutdown, and the 113th Congress (aka the Congress that was one of the least productive in history) wrapped things up and everybody went home.
Stockman made a run at unseating Sen. John Cornyn for the Republican nomination a while back. After that didn't work out, Stockman declined to run for reelection in the 36th District. Thus, this filing was really one of Stockman's last attempts at actually doing something while still in the political arena. And we have to say it was an interesting idea and it came from the guy who filed a resolution attempting to repeal the gun-free zones around schools after Sandy Hook back in 2013. We admit we kind of wish he would have tried to name part of HR 5847 after himself -- the way he did with that climate denial theory -- but we'll learn to live with disappointment.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.