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Caplin & Drysdale v. United States

United States Supreme Court
491 U.S. 617 (1989)


Reckmeyer was charged with running a massive drug importation and distribution scheme, which was alleged to be a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848. The indictment against him sought forfeiture of specified assets in his possession. The district court entered a restraining order forbidding him to transfer any of the listed assets to a third party because those assets were potentially forfeitable. Reckmeyer had previously retained the law firm Caplin & Drysdale (plaintiff) to represent him. He moved to modify the district court’s restraining order because he wanted to use some of the assets to pay Caplin & Drysdale’s fees. He eventually entered a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to the drug related charge and agreed to forfeit almost all the assets in his possession. After the plea was entered, Caplin & Drysdale filed a petition under § 853(n), which allows third parties with an interest in forfeited property to ask a sentencing court for a determination of their rights with respect to that property. Besides its claim under this statute, Caplin & Drysdale alternatively argued that the assets used to pay an attorney were exempt under § 853, and if not, then the statute’s failure to provide an exemption was unconstitutional. The district court granted Caplin & Drysdale some of the forfeited assets, but the court of appeals reversed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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