(c) 2011, Brenda Grantland, Esq., added 1/31/2011
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I created this page to recommend some very worthwhile websites of
organizations and causes I agree with, support, or just find
interesting or informative.
I am grouping them roughly by subject matter, but some of them cross
over into several categories. I will be adding to this page
later, so if I forgot your organization please email me.
General civil liberties and constitutional rights
- because my politics are an odd mix of liberal and libertarian causes
with a few conservative ideas (such a property rights), you may find
this an odd collection:
- American Civil Liberties Union - Most people think of the ACLU as an organization limited to liberal causes,
but they also do a lot of good work for civil liberties in general.
The ACLU has ruffled some feathers for advocating free speech for KKK
members and other unpopular groups, and for its stance on abortion and/or gay marriage.
Although I sometimes disagree with them on where they should
concentrate their efforts, I agree with them that constitutional rights
apply to everyone equally and someone should not be denied those rights
because of their sexual orientation, or even their hateful, racist
beliefs. The ACLU has been, and continue to be a very strong ally in
the asset forfeiture reform movement. In this age where all constitutional rights are under attack, we need the ACLU.
- Move-On - this
organization is a strong and effective advocate of the liberal causes I
agree with -- economic recovery and jobs creation, an end to the war,defense of Social Security, and the urgent need to take measures to reverse global warming.
- Truth-Out - During
the horrible assault on our civil liberties of the Bush years, I had to
turn off the television news because I kept screaming at the tube until
I was hoarse. Truth Out became my number one source of news
articles about the abuses of our rights and what people were doing
about them -- often covering issues the mainstream news neglects to
- Thane Ritchie First Amendment - this new site was created by Thane Ritchie, CEO of Ritchie Capital Management. Thane's politics are about as
eclectic as mine. Although we do not always agree, it is
refreshing to see a powerful business man advocating protection of
constitutional rights and green causes like ecology and sustainable
- National Rifle Organization
- My inclusion of the NRA in this list may blow your mind. I have
never owned a gun, and probably never will, but the Second Amendment is
in the Constitution for a reason. Thomas Jefferson said: "The
strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear
arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in
government." (Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334). Seeing
how close the Bush administration came to suspending the Constitution,
I support the Second Amendment as insurance against a tyrant (like
Adolph Hitler, who was elected to power by the German public) gaining
control by popular vote and destroying our Constitutional system of
government. On the other hand, I believe in reasonable gun
control, including strong controls to prevent gun ownership by the
mentally ill and those convicted of domestic violence or any other violent crime. The Second Amendment is a personal right and privilege that can be forfeited by abuse or mental unfitness. The NRA was also a very powerful ally in our quest for forfeiture reform.
Anti-Drug War groups - I have long been
an opponent of the Drug War. Drugs are a social or health issue,
and declaring war on them and treating people with drug problems as the
enemy does not solve the problem. As a criminal defense lawyer I
saw many lives ruined by drugs, but many more lives ruined by the drug
war. Families are destroyed when a parent is incarcerated, and
their children are punished, ostracized and often doomed to repeat
their parents mistakes. Sentences of 10, 20 or 30 years for
non-violent crimes are simply unnecessary and counter-productive.
How could anyone become a contributing member of society again after 20
years of incarceration? With the cost of incarceration per year
exceeding the cost of sending a person to college, how can we as a
nation afford to waste so much money incarcerating such a huge
percentage of our population? I support the following groups for
their advocacy in opposition to the drug war:
- Families Against Mandatory Minimums
- Mandatory minimum sentence statutes were a disasterously bad idea
spawned by the drug war. These statutes required draconian
sentences in drug cases and took away judges' discretion to give a less
severe sentence. As a result first and second time drug offenders often were sentenced to a mandatory 5, 10 or even 20 years
-- harsher sentences than violent criminals and child molesters.
The Supreme Court had the right idea when it declared the mandatory
Federal Sentencing Guidelines to be unconstitutional, and saved the
Guidelines from repeal by making them discretionary, so that judges now
have the discretion to depart below them in appropriate cases.
The ruling did not affect the mandatory minimum statutes, which should
- Drug Policy Alliance - this
policy organization opposes the Drug War and mandatory minimum
sentences and advocates asset forfeiture reform in its publications,
advocacy to Congress and state legislatures. It also brings a
large number of disparate groups together in its conventions.
- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - an anti-drug-war group made up of former law enforcement officers, who came to know first hand the hypocrisy and dangers of addressing non-violent drug crimes with military tactics.
- National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
- when someone gets arrested for marijuana I recommend that they
contact NORML for a referral to an experienced marijuana defense lawyer. NORML has also been very supportive of the asset forfeiture reform cause.
- November Coalition - this organization opposes the drug war and supports the Drug War's victims,
by publishing the stories of defendants who are sentenced to
outrageously long sentences and the families of incarcerated drug
Forfeiture reform and property rights groups -
- Forfeiture Endangers American Rights - formed in 1992, this is the organization nearest and dearest to my heart. John Paff (New Jersey) was the founder, but
I consider myself a "founding member", having joined in the first year,
and having served on the board of directors ever since it became a
non-profit corporation (1993). The FEAR website is the largest
repository of free information on forfeiture on the internet.
FEAR sells an inexpensive defense manual, a DVD crash-course in forfeiture law and a brief bank to assist lawyers and pro se forfeiture victims
in defending forfeiture cases, as well as a directory of lawyers with
forfeiture experience. FEAR is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and
needs your tax-deductible donations.
- Institute for Justice - this nonprofit public interest litigation organization advocates for property rights in general, and asset forfeiture reform in particular. IJ senior attorney Scott Bullock has served on FEAR's board of directors for many years.
- International Society for Individual Liberty - another group which has long supported FEAR's efforts to reform forfeiture law.
- Cato Institute
- a libertarian think tank located in Washington, D.C., CATO has
published a number of papers and sponsored forums on asset forfeiture
reform and other property rights and civil liberties issues.
Medical marijuana groups - In my work as a
forfeiture defense lawyer (and in my criminal appeals) I have
represented a number of people who were prosecuted, and/or had their
property seized, by the federal government for growing or providing
medical marijuana that was legalized under state law. The
patients I came to know were seriously ill or sometimes dying people
who found marijuana was the only medicine to relieve their chronic
pain, nausea from cancer treatment, wasting syndrome from AIDS, etc.
Those medical marijuana providers who were prosecuted or punished with
asset forfeiture for supplying them medical cannabis were very sincere,
compassionate, non-violent people, and some of the nicest people I ever
met. I also came to know some of the experts who had studied, or
scientific research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana, such as
the late Tod Mikuriya, and learned that there is scientific proof that
is effective as a medicine - proof the US government knows
about but chooses to ignore. Politics and propaganda keep it
- Americans for Safe Access
- a group that has done a great job of assisting and supporting medical
marijuana patients and their families, especially patients under attack
by the judicial system.
- Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) - WAMM
is a model for the non-profit provision of medical cannabis to those
who need it. The sincerity of their compassion is exemplified by
the hospice work provided by WAMM for their patients who are dying.