On Wednesday, February 26th, Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt addressed civil forfeiture and the war on drugs in Pennsylvania’s jurisprudence during the 2014 Distinguished Jurist in Residence Lecture.
Leavitt addressed several Pennsylvania cases addressing the forfeiture of money or possessions, including Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Three Hundred Ten Thousand Twenty Dollars ($310,020.00) In United States Currency, which involved an appeal of the forfeiture of a large sum of cash confiscated after cars speeding on the Pennsylvania turnpike were stopped. Ion scans of the seized currency showed trace amounts of cocaine that were significantly in excess of what would be expected to be found on cash in general circulation, leading to the forfeiture of the money.
In addition to touching on the issues presented in the particular case, Judge Leavitt also touched on the origins and evolution of criminal forfeiture laws. There must be a criminal conviction for items to be forfeited, but in Pennsylvania, violations can be either statutory or common law. She also discussed the impact of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act and the impact that it had in the context of forfeiture cases involving illegal drugs.
Leavitt is the second distinguished jurist in residence for the Harrisburg campus, following Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Thomas G. Saylor. The position, sponsored by the school’s Law & Government Institute
, will see Judge Leavitt teach a colloquium on special problems in government litigation, give public lectures on important legal issues in Pennsylvania and be available for consultation and exchanges with faculty and law students.
A graduate of Dickinson School of Law, Leavitt joined the Commonwealth Court in January 2002. She was a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll before joining the court. She served as a member of the firm’s litigation section and chair of the Insurance Regulatory Law Group.