Luis v United States

Luis challenged the freeze order in her health care fraud case arguing the order violated her right to hire counsel of her choice. The district court and 11th Circuit rejected her argument. The Court, 5 (a four justice plurality plus Thomas concurring in judgment)-3, reversed. Breyer, joined by Roberts, Ginsberg and Sotomayor, argued the freeze order violated Luis’ right to hire her counsel of choice because the asserts involved belong to Luis not the government or anyone else and is not traceable proceeds of a crime or forfeited tools used in a crime or contraband. He also argued that because the funds involved here are untainted, the 6th Amendment right to counsel overrides any property interest, reversionary or otherwise, the government may have at some point in the finds and further that the practice at common law points to allowing Luis to use the finds here not freeze them for government seizure later. He also argued that allowing the freeze order here would inevitably place defendants into the public defender system which is undefended and overwhelmed. Thomas concurred in judgment arguing that the 6th Amendment text protects the right to hire counsel as the only right originally understood to exist, funds to hire an attorney is a necessary predicate step to hiring counsel and common law limited pretrial restraint to tainted assists. Thus, he argued the freeze order here is unconstitutional. He rejected the balconing approach of the plurality and left open the question of when a freeze system stops being an incidental burden and actually violates the 6th Amendment. Kennedy, joined by Alito, dissented arguing that freezing assets subject to future forfeiture is authorized by Court precedent and nothing about the lack of criminal taint here changes the reasoning or result. He argued that the result announced by the plurality and Justice Thomas has far reaching implications, rewards sophisticated criminals, introduces arbitrary distinctions between criminals who get rid of crime proceeds and those who do not  and will interfere with state efforts to administer forfeiture schemes. Kagan dissented arguing that while the precedent allowing pretrial freeze orders is troubling, it applies here and the order entered elbow is constitutional. She also argued the rule adopted by the plurality is irrational for the reasons argued by Kennedy.