property rights

Special Op-Ed

The Progress Report is pleased to present this original essay by Leon Felkins.

Property and Liberty:

You can't give up one without losing the other

Written by Leon Felkins, January 2, 1999
Copyright 1999, all rights reserved

"No other rights are safe where property is not safe." -- Daniel Webster

"The right of distribution over private property is the essence of freedom." -- Merrill Jenkins

"Because civil forfeiture action is against the property, the government need not prove the property owner's guilt . . .Traditionally, if the court finds that probable cause has been established, the burden shifts to the claimant to prove . . . that th e property was not used for illegal purposes. . ." -- Assets Seizure & Forfeiture: Developing & Maintaining a State Capability, a manual by the U.S. Department of Justice

In the June 11, 1997 hearings on government asset forfeiture reform held before Representative Hyde's Judiciary Committee, a Mr. Billy Munnerlynn, the owner of a once successful air charter service but now a truck driver, made the following closing statement:
"All of a sudden I could not even get a job with these airlines. These airlines haul mail that's Federal. I was put on a list. I can't think of the name of it, but the DEA uses it to identify possible drug runners and gun runners and money launderers. I couldn't work anywhere. Basically, I was forced to sell the other prop airplanes that I had flying into the Grand Canyon. I had four prop planes, a Malibu a 210, and a training plane. I was forced to sell all these aircrafts to pay my attorney bills.

Now that all these things are gone, all the money is gone. I filed for bankruptcy. We lost our home. We lost all our aircraft. I lost my airline certificate. The Federal Government told me they would wait to see the outcome of the forfeiture hearings. It wouldn't be right for them to destroy my certificate, I spent over $200,000 getting that certificate. My pilot license and Mr. Bailey, I believe, can confirm this, cost well over $80,000. The Lear jet cost $500,000.

I can assure this committee I have never ever given thought to ever breaking the law, much less flying money launderers, drug people.

What was Mr. Munnerlynn's crime? He didn't commit a crime -- his plane did! You can read the details at but in summary, the government prosecuted his plane because it had been used to transport a drug dealer.

Our Federal and state governments confiscate property in the billions of dollars annually using civil asset forfeiture wherein the property itself is prosecuted and property, unfortunately, does not have a Bill of Rights!

How all this came to be is examined in this essay.

The American people seem to be either unaware or indifferent to the quiet but steady withering away of our privacy and property rights. In this essay, I will examine the relationship between the right to private property and liberty and with the help of some quotes from those much wiser than me, show the disastrous impact that the losing of private property rights has on the few liberties we are still allowed in America. But first a short summary on how we got into this mess.


If you would like to learn more about government asset forfeiture, go online to
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights, at or write them at:

Forfeiture Endangers American Rights
P.O. Box 15421
Washington D.C. 20003
(202) 546-4381

For more -- lots more -- by and about Mr. Felkins, visit his WWW site at

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