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Justices add drug forfeiture case to merits docket

This afternoon the justices issued orders from today’s private conference, adding one new case to their merits docket for the term. They agreed to review the case of Terry Honeycutt, who worked as a salaried employee at a hardware store owned by his brother, Tony. The two brothers were charged with federal drug crimes for the store’s sale of an iodine-based water disinfectant – which can also be used to make methamphetamines. Tony pleaded guilty and forfeited $200,000 to account for the proceeds of the illegal sales. After Terry went to trial and was convicted, the government argued that he should have to forfeit the rest of the proceeds, approximately $70,000.

Terry countered that he should not have to forfeit the remaining proceeds because he did not own the store and therefore did not receive them. The district court agreed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reversed. It ruled that Terry could be held independently liable for the store’s proceeds from the sales even if the funds never actually reached him.

The federal government acknowledged that the courts of appeals are divided on the question presented by Terry’s appeal. It nonetheless urged the justices to deny review, explaining that the split among the circuits is “lopsided and recent.” And in any event, it contended, Terry’s case is not a good one in which to consider that question, because he would also be liable for the forfeiture under the conflicting rule adopted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Despite the government’s objections, the justices granted certiorari this afternoon. The case, Honeycutt v. United States, will likely be argued in the spring, with a decision by the end of June. We expect additional orders from today’s conference on Monday morning at 9:30 a.m.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, Justices add drug forfeiture case to merits docket, SCOTUSblog (Dec. 9, 2016, 3:23 PM),