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Docket No.: 14-419
Certiorari Granted: 06/08/15
Argued: November 10, 2015


Bill of Rights, First Amendment, Medicaid, Medicare, Sixth Amendment, criminal procedure, preliminary injunction, probable cause, property rights

PartyNames: Sila Luis v. United States
Petitioner: Sila Luis
Respondent: United States

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Citation: 564 Fed.Appx. 493
Supreme Court Docket

Sila Luis
United States
Question Presented:

This case presents an opportunity for the Court to resolve a circuit split on a question of fundamental importance to the adversarial system of justice: whether the restraint of untainted assets needed to retain counsel of choice in a criminal case violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Last Term, this Court reaffirmed that tainted assets may be restrained pre-trial (and forfeited upon conviction), even when those assets are needed to retain counsel of choice. Kaley v. United States, _ U.S. _, 134 S. Ct. 1090, 1105 (2014); accord United States v. Monsanto, 491 U.S. 600, 616 (1989); Caplin & Drysdale, Chtd. v. United States, 491 U.S. 617, 631 (1989). In rejecting constitutional challenges to pretrial restraints under 21 U.S.C. 853, it was significant to this Court that the restrained assets were tainted, i.e., traceable to the alleged criminal conduct. See, e.g., Kaley, 134 S. Ct. at 1095 (noting that "no one contests that the assets in question derive from, or were used in committing, the offenses"). Although the Solicitor General and three Justices appeared to agree that the restraint of untainted assets would pose constitutional problems, see id. at 1095 n.3; id. at 1108 & n.2 (Roberts, C.J., dissenting), the majority opinion in Kaley "[did] not opine on the matter." Kaley, 134 S. Ct. at 1095 n.3. The Fourth Circuit has expressly held that "[w]hile Caplin [& Drysdale, Chtd.] made absolutely clear that there is no Sixth Amendment right for a defendant to obtain counsel using tainted funds, [a defendant] still possesses a qualified Sixth Amendment right to use wholly legitimate funds to hire the attorney of his choice." United States v. Farmer, 274 F.3d 800, 804 (4th Cir. 2001). Addressing a pretrial restraint under 18 U.S.C. 1345, the Eleventh Circuit in this case upheld a preliminary injunction that currently restrains all of petitioner's assets, including undisputedly untainted funds needed by her to engage private counsel in her criminal case. Ignoring the Fourth Circuit's holding in Farmer and the important and historical distinction between tainted and untainted assets, the Eleventh Circuit interpreted Kaley, Monsanto and Caplin & Drysdale, Chtd. to "foreclose" petitioner's constitutional challenge to the pretrial restraint of legitimate, untainted funds she needs to retain counsel of choice. United States v. Luis, No. 13-13719, 564 F. App'x. 493, 494 (11th Cir. 2014). Given the conflict between the circuits on a constitutional issue significant to criminal defendants, the criminal defense bar and the administration of justice, this petition presents the following question for certiorari review: Whether the pretrial restraint of a criminal defendant's legitimate, untainted assets (those not traceable to a criminal offense) needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. CERT. GRANTED 6/8/2015


November 10, 2015

Listen to Oral Argument in LUIS v. UNITED STATES

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Case Documents

1Questions Presented in LUIS v. UNITED STATES
2LUIS v. UNITED STATES Oral Argument Transcript
3LUIS v. UNITED STATES Oral Argument Audio