Pro Bono Victory: Civil Forfeiture/Federal Equitable Sharing
An example of John Fortin’s pro bono work includes a client, a retired Marine, who was driving from Texas to California to visit his children when he was stopped by Nevada Highway Patrol, his vehicle was searched, and his lifesavings (over $80,000 in cash) was seized from him despite having done nothing wrong. The highway patrol then told the client he had to prove the money was not drug proceeds to get the money back. This civil forfeiture process, federal equitable sharing, allows state officials to provide the property to the federal government so that the federal government can then rely on significantly less restrictive federal laws and obtain complete possession of the property. The client needed pro bono assistance, and thus, when the Institute for Justice (“IJ”), a public interest law firm, asked for local counsel support, Mr. Fortin immediately agreed. Through Mr. Fortin’s assistance with IJ, the client obtained his life savings back from the government.
In the process of obtaining his client’s property, IJ and Mr. Fortin likewise confronted an even bigger question, could Nevadans bring suit against the government when it violated their Nevada constitutional rights? Mr. Fortin assisted IJ in drafting and submitting an amicus brief in a case evaluating the question. The arguments put forth in the amicus brief shaped the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision in Mack v. Williams, 138 Nev., Adv. Op. 86, in which the Court held that when the government violates Article 1, Section 18 (Nevada’s search and seizure protection), an individual may obtain monetary damages for the violation.
About McDonald Carano
In 2024, McDonald Carano celebrates 75 years of serving Nevada’s legal, business, government, and civic communities. More than 60 lawyers and government relations professionals serve state, national, and international clients from our offices in Reno, Las Vegas, and Carson City. McDonald Carano provides legal services and government affairs and advocacy counsel to startups, corporations, trade associations, nonprofits, public entities, high-net-worth individuals, investors, and public-private partnerships throughout Nevada. We are proud to be your Nevada law firm since 1949.
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