By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A federal judge has ruled that the DA and police will have to slug it out in court with homeowners as they attempt to take down the city’s process of seizing drug-related cash, cars, and homes.

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Judge Eduardo Rubeno refused to dismiss the lawsuit which claims the DA and police employ an illegal process to seize the property of innocent homeowners to fund its budget.

“The judge’s decision allows this lawsuit to move forward,” said attorney Darpana Sheth.

Sheth works for the Institute for Justice and represents plaintiff homeowners who claim that law enforcement seized their property without notice or a hearing.

In his 39-page opinion, the judge rejects the city’s procedural defenses — namely, budgetary allegation of forfeiture proceeds are dictated by law.

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“It requires Philadelphia and its chief law enforcement officer to defend how it’s been systematically trampling on the rights of not only our clients, but the rights of thousands of other property owners,” Sheth says.

The next step will focus on whether the plaintiffs can certify a class action.

In reaction to the ruling, a spokesman for the Philadelphia DA reiterated an earlier response: “He is tightening protocols and doing everything necessary to protect the rights of all concerned.  But for those who care about the real victims of rampant drug dealing, the goal has to be to preserve this tool, not to destroy it.”

 

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To see the ruling, CLICK HERE.