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Supreme Court of the United States
November 10, 2015, Argued; March 30, 2016, Decided
[*8] Justice Breyer announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which The Chief Justice, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Sotomayor join.
A federal statute provides that a court may freeze before trial certain assets belonging to a criminal defendant accused of violations of federal health care or banking laws. See 18 U.S.C. §1345. Those assets include: (1) property “obtained as a result of” the crime, (2) property “traceable” to the crime, and (3) other “property of equivalent value.” §1345(a)(2). In this case, the Government has obtained a court order that freezes assets belonging to the third category [****8] [*9] of property, namely, property that is untainted by the crime, and that belongs fully to the defendant. That order, the defendant says, prevents her from paying her lawyer. She claims that insofar as it does so, it violates her Sixth Amendment “right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for [her] defence.” We agree.
In October 2012, a federal grand jury charged the petitioner, Sila Luis, with paying kickbacks, conspiring to commit fraud, and engaging in other crimes all related to health care. See §1349; §371; 42 U.S.C. §1320a-7b(b)(2)(A). The Government claimed that Luis had fraudulently obtained close to $45 million, almost all of which she had already spent. Believing it would convict Luis of the crimes charged, and hoping to preserve the $2 million remaining [**1088] in Luis’ possession for payment of restitution and other criminal penalties (often referred to as criminal forfeitures, which can include innocent — not just tainted — assets, a point of critical importance here), the Government sought a pretrial order prohibiting Luis from dissipating her assets. See 18 U.S.C. §1345(a)(2). And the District Court ultimately issued an order prohibiting her from “dissipating, or otherwise disposing of . . . assets, real or personal . . . up to the equivalent value [****9] of the proceeds of the Federal health care fraud ($45 million).” App. to Pet. for Cert. A-6.
The Government and Luis agree that this court order will prevent Luis from using her own untainted funds, i.e., funds not connected with the crime, to hire counsel to defend her in her criminal case. See App. 161 (stipulating “that an unquantified amount of revenue not connected to the indictment [had] flowed into some of the accounts” subject to the restraining order); ibid. (similarly stipulating that Luis used “revenue not connected to the indictment” to pay for real property that she possessed). [***262] Although the District Court recognized that the order might prevent Luis from obtaining counsel of her choice, it held “that there is no Sixth Amendment [*10] right to use untainted, substitute assets to hire counsel.” 966 F. Supp. 2d 1321, 1334 (SD Fla. 2013).
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578 U.S. 5 *; 136 S. Ct. 1083 **; 194 L. Ed. 2d 256 ***; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 2272 ****; 84 U.S.L.W. 4159; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 49
SILA LUIS, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
United States v. Luis, 564 Fed. Appx. 493, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 8222 (11th Cir. Fla., 2014)
Disposition: 564 Fed. Appx. 493, vacated and remanded.
forfeiture, plurality, forfeitable, untainted, right to counsel, freeze, funds, cases, spend, pretrial restraint, pretrial, restraining order, restrained, probable cause, innocent, common law, dissipating, proceeds, stolen, hire, transfers, belongs, courts, fine, constitutional right, restitution, violates, tracing, no right, indictment
Civil Procedure, Remedies, Injunctions, Criminal Law & Procedure, Criminal Offenses, Fraud, Fraud Against the Government, Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel