Kaley v. United States,
571 U.S. ___ (2014)

Annotate this Case

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.



No. 12–464



on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

[February 25, 2014]

     Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the Court.

     A federal statute, 21 U. S. C. §853(e), authorizes a court to freeze an indicted defendant’s assets prior to trial if they would be subject to forfeiture upon conviction. In United States v. Monsanto, 491 U. S. 600, 615 (1989) , we approved the constitutionality of such an order so long as it is “based on a finding of probable cause to believe that the property will ultimately be proved forfeitable.” And we held that standard to apply even when a defendant seeks to use the disputed property to pay for a lawyer.

     In this case, two indicted defendants wishing to hire an attorney challenged a pre-trial restraint on their property. The trial court convened a hearing to consider the seizure’s legality under Monsanto. The question presented is whether criminal defendants are constitutionally entitled at such a hearing to contest a grand jury’s prior determination of probable cause to believe they committed the crimes charged. We hold that they have no right to relitigate that finding.



     Criminal forfeitures are imposed upon conviction to confiscate assets used in or gained from certain serious crimes. See 21 U. S. C. §853(a). Forfeitures help to ensure that crime does not pay: They at once punish wrongdoing, deter future illegality, and “lessen the economic power” of criminal enterprises. Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U. S. 617, 630 (1989) ; see id., at 634 (“Forfeiture provisions are powerful weapons in the war on crime”). The Government also uses forfeited property to recompense victims of crime, improve conditions in crime-damaged communities, and support law enforcement activities like police training. See id., at 629–630.[1] Accordingly, “there is a strong governmental interest in obtaining full recovery of all forfeitable assets.” Id., at 631.

     In line with that interest, §853(e)(1) empowers courts to enter pre-trial restraining orders or injunctions to “preserve the availability of [forfeitable] property” while criminal proceedings are pending. Such an order, issued “[u]pon application of the United States,” prevents a defendant from spending or transferring specified property, including to pay an attorney for legal services. Ibid. In Monsanto, our principal case involving this procedure, we held a pre-trial asset restraint constitutionally permissible whenever there is probable cause to believe that the property is forfeitable. See 491 U. S., at 615. That determinationhas two parts, reflecting the requirements for forfeit-ure under federal law: There must be probable cause to think (1) that the defendant has committed an offense permitting forfeiture, and (2) that the property at issue has the requisite connection to that crime. See §853(a). The Monsanto Court, however, declined to consider “whether the Due Process Clause requires a hearing” to establish either or both of those aspects of forfeitability. Id., at 615, n. 10.[2]

     Since Monsanto, the lower courts have generally pro-vided a hearing to any indicted defendant seeking to lift an asset restraint to pay for a lawyer. In that hearing, they have uniformly allowed the defendant to litigate the second issue stated above: whether probable cause exists to believe that the assets in dispute are traceable or otherwise sufficiently related to the crime charged in the indictment.[3] But the courts have divided over extending the hearing to the first issue. Some have considered, while others have barred, a defendant’s attempt to challenge the probable cause underlying a criminal charge.[4] This case raises the question whether an indicted defendant has a constitutional right to contest the grand jury’s prior determination of that matter.


     The grand jury’s indictment in this case charges a scheme to steal prescription medical devices and resell them for profit. The indictment accused petitioner Kerri Kaley, a sales representative for a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and petitioner Brian Kaley, her husband, with transporting stolen medical devices across state lines and laundering the proceeds of that activity.[5] The Kaleys have contested those allegations throughout this litigation, arguing that the medical devices at issue were unwanted, excess hospital inventory, which they could lawfully take and market to others.

     Immediately after obtaining the indictment, the Government sought a restraining order under §853(e)(1) to prevent the Kaleys from transferring any assets traceable to or involved in the alleged offenses. Included among those assets is a $500,000 certificate of deposit that the Kaleys intended to use for legal fees. The District Court entered the requested order. Later, in response to the Kaleys’ motion to vacate the asset restraint, the court denied a request for an evidentiary hearing and confirmed the order, except as to $63,000 that it found (based on the parties’ written submissions) was not connected to the alleged offenses.

     On interlocutory appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further consideration of whether some kind of evidentiary hearing was warranted. See 579 F. 3d 1246 (2009). The District Court then concluded that it should hold a hearing, but only as to “whether the restrained assets are traceable to or involved in the alleged criminal conduct.” App. to Pet. for Cert. 43, n. 5. The Kaleys informed the court that they no longer disputed that issue; they wished to show only that the “case against them is ‘baseless.’ ” Id., at 39; see App. 107 (“We are not contesting that the assets restrained were . . . traceable to the conduct. Our quarrel is whether that conduct constitutes a crime”). Accordingly, the District Court affirmed the restraining order, and the Kaleys took another appeal. The Eleventh Circuit this time affirmed, holding that the Kaleys were not entitled at a hearing on the asset freeze “to challenge the factual foundation supporting the grand jury’s probable cause determination[ ]”—that is, “the very validity of the underlying indictment.” 677 F. 3d 1316, 1317 (2012).

     We granted certiorari in light of the Circuit split on the question presented, 568 U. S. ___ (2013), and we now affirm the Eleventh Circuit.


     This Court has twice considered claims, similar to the Kaleys’, that the Fifth Amendment’s right to due process and the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel constrain the way the federal forfeiture statute applies to assets needed to retain an attorney. See Caplin & Drysdale, 491 U. S. 617 ; Monsanto, 491 U. S. 600 . We begin with those rulings not as mere background, but as something much more. On the single day the Court decided both those cases, it cast the die on this one too.

     In Caplin & Drysdale, we considered whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendments exempt from forfeiture money that a convicted defendant has agreed to pay his attorney. See 491 U. S., at 623–635. We conceded a factual premise of the constitutional claim made in the case: Sometimes “a defendant will be unable to retain the attorney of his choice,” if he cannot use forfeitable assets. Id., at 625. Still, we held, the defendant’s claim was “untenable.” Id., at 626. “A defendant has no Sixth Amendment right to spend another person’s money” for legal fees—even if that is the only way to hire a preferred lawyer. Ibid. Consider, we submitted, the example of a “robbery suspect” who wishes to “use funds he has stolen from a bank to retain an attorney to defend him if he is apprehended.” Ibid. That money is “not rightfully his.” Ibid. Accordingly, we concluded, the Government does not violate the Constitution if, pursuant to the forfeiture statute, “it seizes the robbery proceeds and refuses to permit the defendant to use them” to pay for his lawyer. Ibid.

     And then, we confirmed in Monsanto what our “robbery suspect” hypothetical indicated: Even prior to conviction (or trial)—when the presumption of innocence still applies—the Government could constitutionally use §853(e) to freeze assets of an indicted defendant “based on a find-ing of probable cause to believe that the property will ultimately be proved forfeitable.” 491 U. S., at 615. In Monsanto, too, the defendant wanted to use the property at issue to pay a lawyer, and maintained that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments entitled him to do so. We dis-agreed. We first noted that the Government may sometimes “restrain persons where there is a finding of probable cause to believe that the accused has committed a serious offense.” Id., at 615–616. Given that power, we could find “no constitutional infirmity in §853(e)’s authorization of a similar restraint on [the defendant’s] property” in order to protect “the community’s interest” in recovering “ill-gotten gains.” Id., at 616. Nor did the defendant’s interest in retaining a lawyer with the disputed assets change the equation. Relying on Caplin & Drysdale, we reasoned: “[I]f the Government may, post-trial, forbid the use of forfeited assets to pay an attorney, then surely no constitutional violation occurs when, after probable cause is adequately established, the Government obtains an order barring a defendant from frustrating that end by dissipating his assets prior to trial.” Ibid. So again: With probable cause, a freeze is valid.

     The Kaleys little dispute that proposition; their argument is instead about who should have the last word as to probable cause. A grand jury has already found probable cause to think that the Kaleys committed the offenses charged; that is why an indictment issued. No one doubts that those crimes are serious enough to trigger forfeiture. Similarly, no one contests that the assets in question derive from, or were used in committing, the offenses. See supra, at 5. The only question is whether the Kaleys are constitutionally entitled to a judicial re-determination of the conclusion the grand jury already reached: that probable cause supports this criminal prosecution (or alternatively put, that the prosecution is not “baseless,” as the Kaleys believe, supra, at 5). And that question, we think, has a ready answer, because a fundamental and historic commitment of our criminal justice system is to entrust those probable cause findings to grand juries.

     This Court has often recognized the grand jury’s singular role in finding the probable cause necessary to initiate a prosecution for a serious crime. See, e.g., Costello v. United States, 350 U. S. 359, 362 (1956) . “[A]n indictment ‘fair upon its face,’ and returned by a ‘properly constituted grand jury,’ ” we have explained, “conclusively determines the existence of probable cause” to believe the defendant perpetrated the offense alleged. Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U. S. 103 , n. 19 (1975) (quoting Ex parte United States, 287 U. S. 241, 250 (1932) ). And “conclusively” has meant, case in and case out, just that. We have found no “authority for looking into and revising the judgment of the grand jury upon the evidence, for the purpose of determining whether or not the finding was founded upon sufficient proof.” Costello, 350 U. S., at 362–363 (quoting United States v. Reed, 27 F. Cas. 727, 738 (No. 16,134) (CC NDNY 1852) (Nelson, J.)). To the contrary, “the whole history of the grand jury institution” demonstrates that “a challenge to the reliability or competence of the evidence” supporting a grand jury’s finding of probable cause “will not be heard.” United States v. Williams, 504 U. S. 36, 54 (1992) (quoting Costello, 350 U. S., at 364, and Bank of Nova Scotia v. United States, 487 U. S. 250, 261 (1988) ). The grand jury gets to say—without any review, oversight, or second-guessing—whether probable cause exists to think that a person committed a crime.

     And that inviolable grand jury finding, we have decided, may do more than commence a criminal proceeding (with all the economic, reputational, and personal harm that entails); the determination may also serve the purpose of immediately depriving the accused of her freedom. If the person charged is not yet in custody, an indictment triggers “issuance of an arrest warrant without further inquiry” into the case’s strength. Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 117, n. 19; see Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U. S. 118, 129 (1997) . Alternatively, if the person was arrested without a warrant, an indictment eliminates her Fourth Amendment right to a prompt judicial assessment of probable cause to support any detention. See Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 114, 117, n. 19. In either situation, this Court—relying on the grand jury’s “historical role of protecting individuals from unjust persecution”—has “let [that body’s] judgment substitute for that of a neutral and detached magistrate.” Ibid. The grand jury, all on its own, may effect a pre-trial restraint on a person’s liberty by finding probable cause to support a criminal charge.[6]

     The same result follows when, as here, an infringement on the defendant’s property depends on a showing of probable cause that she committed a crime. If judicial review of the grand jury’s probable cause determination is not warranted (as we have so often held) to put a defendant on trial or place her in custody, then neither is it needed to freeze her property. The grand jury that is good enough—reliable enough, protective enough—to inflict those other grave consequences through its probable cause findings must needs be adequate to impose this one too. Indeed, Monsanto already noted the absence of any reason to hold property seizures to different rules: As described earlier, the Court partly based its adoption of the probable cause standard on the incongruity of subjecting an asset freeze to any stricter requirements than apply to an arrest or ensuing detention. See supra, at 6; 491 U. S., at 615 (“[I]t would be odd to conclude that the Government may not restrain property” on the showing often sufficient to “restrain persons”). By similar token, the probable cause standard, once selected, should work no differently for the single purpose of freezing assets than for all others.[7] So the longstanding, unvarying rule of criminal procedure we have just described applies here as well: The grand jury’s determination is conclusive.

     And indeed, the alternative rule the Kaleys seek would have strange and destructive consequences. The Kaleys here demand a do-over, except with a different referee. They wish a judge to decide anew the exact question the grand jury has already answered—whether there is probable cause to think the Kaleys committed the crimes charged. But suppose the judge performed that task and came to the opposite conclusion. Two inconsistent findings would then govern different aspects of one criminal proceeding: Probable cause would exist to bring the Kaleys to trial (and, if otherwise appropriate, hold them in prison), but not to restrain their property. And assuming the prosecutor continued to press the charges,[8] the same judge who found probable cause lacking would preside over a trial premised on its presence. That legal dissonance, if sustainable at all, could not but undermine the criminal justice system’s integrity—and especially the grand jury’s integral, constitutionally prescribed role. For in this new world, every prosecution involving a pre-trial asset freeze would potentially pit the judge against the grand jury as to the case’s foundational issue.[9]

     The Kaleys counter (as does the dissent, post, at 7) that apparently inconsistent findings are not really so, because the prosecutor could have presented scantier evidence to the judge than he previously offered the grand jury. Suppose, for example, that at the judicial hearing the prosecutor put on only “one witness instead of all five”; then, the Kaleys maintain, the judge’s decision of no probable cause would mean only that “the Government did not satisfy its burden[ ] on that one day in time.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 12, 18; see Reply Brief 11–12. But we do not think that hypothetical solves the problem. As an initial matter, it does not foreclose a different fact pattern: A judge could hear the exact same evidence as the grand jury, yet respond to it differently, thus rendering what even the Kaleys must concede is a contradictory finding. And when the Kaleys’ hypothetical is true, just what does it show? Consider that the prosecutor in their example has left home some of the witnesses he took to the grand jury—presumably because, as we later discuss, he does not yet wish to reveal their identities or likely testimony. See infra, at 14–15. The judge’s ruling of no probable cause therefore would not mean that the grand jury was wrong: As the Kaleys concede, the grand jury could have heard more than enough evidence to find probable cause that they committed the crimes charged. The Kaleys would win at the later hearing despite, not because of, the case’s true merits. And we would then see still less reason for a judge to topple the grand jury’s (better supported) finding of probable cause.[10]

     Our reasoning so far is straightforward. We held in Monsanto that the probable cause standard governs the pre-trial seizure of forfeitable assets, even when they are needed to hire a lawyer. And we have repeatedly affirmed a corollary of that standard: A defendant has no right to judicial review of a grand jury's determination of probable cause to think a defendant committed a crime. In combination, those settled propositions signal defeat for the Kaleys because, in contesting the seizure of their property, they seek only to relitigate such a grand jury finding.


     The Kaleys would have us undertake a different analysis, which they contend would lead to a different conclusion. They urge us to apply the balancing test of Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U. S. 319 (1976) , to assess whether they have received a constitutionally sufficient opportunity to challenge the seizure of their assets. See Brief for Petitioners 32–64. Under that three-pronged test (reordered here for expositional purposes), a court must weigh (1) the burdens that a requested procedure would impose on the Government against (2) the private interest at stake, as viewed alongside (3) “the risk of an erroneous deprivation” of that interest without the procedure and “the probable value, if any, of [the] additional . . . procedural safeguard[ ].” Mathews, 424 U. S., at 335. Stressing the importance of their interest in retaining chosen counsel, the Kaleys argue that the Mathews balance tilts hardin their favor. It thus overrides—or so the Kaleys claim—all we have previously held about the finality of grand jury findings, entitling them to an evidentiary hearing be-fore a judge to contest the probable cause underlying the indictment.

     The Government battles with the Kaleys over whether Mathews has any application to this case. This Court devised the test, the Government notes, in an administrative setting—to decide whether a Social Security recipient was entitled to a hearing before her benefits were terminated. And although the Court has since employed the approach in other contexts, the Government reads Medina v. California, 505 U. S. 437 (1992) , as foreclosing its use here. In that case, we held that “the Mathews balancing test does not provide the appropriate framework for assessing the validity of state procedural rules which . . . are part of the criminal process,” reasoning that because the “Bill of Rights speaks in explicit terms to many aspects of criminal procedure,” the Due Process Clause “has limited operation” in the field. Id., at 443. That settles that, asserts the Government. See Brief for United States 18. But the Kaleys argue that Medina addressed a State’s procedural rule and relied on federalism principles not implicated here. Further, they claim that Medina concerned a criminal proceeding proper, not a collateral action seizing property. See Reply Brief 1–5. As to that sort of action, the Kaleys contend, Mathews should govern.

     We decline to address those arguments, or to define the respective reach of Mathews and Medina, because we need not do so. Even if Mathews applied here—even if, that is, its balancing inquiry were capable of trumping this Court’s repeated admonitions that the grand jury’s word is conclusive—the Kaleys still would not be entitled to the hearing they seek. That is because the Mathews test tips against them, and so only reinforces what we have already said. As we will explain, the problem for the Kaleys comes from Mathews’ prescribed inquiry into the requested procedure’s usefulness in correcting erroneous deprivations of their private interest. In light of Monsanto’s holding that a seizure of the Kaleys’ property is erroneous only if unsupported by probable cause, the added procedure demanded here is not sufficiently likely to make any difference.

     To begin the Mathews analysis, the Government has a substantial interest in freezing potentially forfeitable assets without an evidentiary hearing about the probable cause underlying criminal charges. At the least, such an adversarial proceeding—think of it as a pre-trial mini-trial (or maybe a pre-trial not-so-mini-trial)—could consume significant prosecutorial time and resources. The hearing presumably would rehearse the case’s merits, including the Government’s theory and supporting evidence. And the Government also might have to litigate a range of ancillary questions relating to the conduct of the hearing itself (for example, could the Kaleys subpoena witnesses or exclude certain evidence?).

     Still more seriously, requiring a proceeding of that kind could undermine the Government’s ability either to obtain a conviction or to preserve forfeitable property. To ensure a favorable result at the hearing, the Government could choose to disclose all its witnesses and other evidence. But that would give the defendant knowledge of the Government’s case and strategy well before the rules of criminal procedure—or principles of due process, see, e.g., Brady v. Maryland, 373 U. S. 83 (1963) —would otherwise require. See Fed. Rules Crim. Proc. 26.2(a), 16(a)(2); Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U. S. 545 –561 (1977) (“There is no general constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case”). And sometimes (particularly in organized crime and drug trafficking prosecutions, in which forfeit-ure questions often arise), that sneak preview might not just aid the defendant’s preparations but also facilitate witness tampering or jeopardize witness safety. Alternatively, to ensure the success of its prosecution, the Government could hold back some of its evidence at the hearing or give up on the pre-trial seizure entirely. But if the Government took that tack, it would diminish the likelihood of ultimately recovering stolen assets to which the public is entitled.[11] So any defense counsel worth his salt—whatever the merits of his case—would put the prosecutor to a choice: “Protect your forfeiture by providing discovery” or “protect your conviction by surrendering the assets.”[12] It is small wonder that the Government wants to avoid that lose-lose dilemma.

     For their part, however, defendants like the Kaleys have a vital interest at stake: the constitutional right to retain counsel of their own choosing. See Wheat v. United States, 486 U. S. 153, 159 (1988) (describing the scope of, and various limits on, that right). This Court has recently described that right, separate and apart from the guarantee to effective representation, as “the root meaning” of the Sixth Amendment. United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U. S. 140 –148 (2006); cf. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U. S. 45, 53 (1932) (“It is hardly necessary to say that, the right to counsel being conceded, a defendant should be afforded a fair opportunity to secure counsel of his own choice”).[13] Indeed, we have held that the wrongful deprivation of choice of counsel is “structural error,” immune from review for harmlessness, because it “pervades the entire trial.” Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U. S., at 150. Different lawyers do all kinds of things differently, sometimes “affect[ing] whether and on what terms the defendant . . . plea bargains, or decides instead to go to trial”—and if the latter, possibly affecting whether she gets convicted or what sentence she receives. Ibid. So for defendants like the Kaleys, having the ability to retain the “counsel [they] believe[ ] to be best”—and who might in fact be superior to any existing alternatives—matters profoundly. Id., at 146.

     And yet Monsanto held, crucially for the last part of our Mathews analysis, that an asset freeze depriving a defend-ant of that interest is erroneous only when unsupportedby a finding of probable cause. Recall that Monsanto considered a case just like this one, where the defendant wanted to use his property to pay his preferred lawyer. He urged the Court to hold that the Government could seize assets needed for that purpose only after conviction. But we instead decided that the Government could act “after probable cause [that the assets are forfeitable] is adequately established.” 491 U. S., at 616. And that means in a case like this one—where the assets’ connection to the allegedly illegal conduct is not in dispute, see supra, at 5—that a pre-trial seizure is wrongful only when there is no probable cause to believe the defendants committed the crimes charged. Or to put the same point differently, such a freeze is erroneous—notwithstanding the weighty burden it imposes on the defendants’ ability to hire a chosen lawyer—only when the grand jury should never have issued the indictment.

     The Mathews test’s remaining prong—critical when the governmental and private interests both have weight—thus boils down to the “probable value, if any,” of a judicial hearing in uncovering mistaken grand jury findings of probable cause. 424 U. S., at 335. The Kaleys (and the dissent) contend that such proceedings will serve an important remedial function because grand juries hear only a “one-sided presentation[ ]” of evidence. Brief for Petitioners 57; see post, at 16. And that argument rests on a generally sound premise: that the adversarial process leads to better, more accurate decision-making. But in this context—when the legal standard is merely probable cause and the grand jury has already made that finding—both our precedents and other courts’ experience indicate that a full-dress hearing will provide little benefit.

     This Court has repeatedly declined to require the use of adversarial procedures to make probable cause determinations. Probable cause, we have often told litigants, is not a high bar: It requires only the “kind of ‘fair probability’ on which ‘reasonable and prudent [people,] not legal technicians, act.’ ” Florida v. Harris, 568 U. S. __, __ (2013) (slip op., at 5) (quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U. S. 213, 231, 238 (1983) ); see Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 121 (contrasting probable cause to reasonable-doubt and preponderance standards). That is why a grand jury’s finding of probable cause to think that a person committed a crime “can be [made] reliably without an adversary hearing,” id., at 120; it is and “has always been thought sufficient to hear only the prosecutor’s side,” United States v. Williams, 504 U. S. 36, 51 (1992) . So, for example, we have held the “confrontation and cross-examination” of witnesses unnecessary in a grand jury proceeding. Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 121–122. Similarly, we have declined to require the presentation of exculpatory evidence, see Williams, 504 U. S., at 51, and we have allowed the introduction of hearsay alone, see Costello, 350 U. S., at 362–364. On each occasion, we relied on the same reasoning, stemming from our recognition that probable cause served only a gateway function: Given the relatively undemanding “nature of the determination,” the value of requiring any additional “formalities and safeguards” would “[i]n most cases . . . be too slight.” Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 121–122.

     We can come out no differently here. The probable cause determinations the Kaleys contest are simply those underlying the charges in the indictment. No doubt the Kaleys could seek to poke holes in the evidence the Government offered the grand jury to support those allegations. No doubt, too, the Kaleys could present evidence of their own, which might cast the Government’s in a different light. (Presumably, the Kaleys would try in those two ways to show that they did not steal, but instead lawfully obtained the medical devices they later resold. See supra, at 4.) Our criminal justice system of course relies on such contestation at trial when the question becomes whether a defendant is guilty beyond peradventure. But as we have held before, an adversarial process is far less useful to the threshold finding of probable cause, which determines only whether adequate grounds exist to proceed to trial and reach that question. The probable cause decision, by its nature, is hard to undermine, and still harder to reverse. So the likelihood that a judge holding an evidentiary hearing will repudiate the grand jury’s decision strikes us, once more, as “too slight” to support a constitutional requirement. Gerstein, 420 U. S., at 122.

     The evidence from other courts corroborates that view, over and over and over again. In the past two decades, the courts in several Circuits have routinely held the kind of hearing the Kaleys seek. See supra, at 3, and n. 4. Yet neither the Kaleys nor their amici (mostly lawyers’ associations) have found a single case in which a judge found an absence of probable cause to believe that an indicted defendant committed the crime charged. One amicus cites 25 reported cases involving pre-trial hearings on asset freezes. See Brief for New York Council of Defense Lawyers 4, n. 2. In 24 of those, the defendant lost outright. The last involved a not-yet-indicted defendant (so no grand jury finding); there, the District Court’s ruling for him was reversed on appeal. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 15, 36. To be sure, a kind of selection bias might affect those statistics: Perhaps a prosecutor with a very weak case would choose to abandon an asset freeze rather than face a difficult hearing. See id., at 16, 37. But the Kaleys and their amici have also failed to offer any anecdotes of that kind; and we suspect that the far more common reason a prosecutor relinquishes a freeze is just to avoid premature discovery. See supra, at 14–15. So experience, as far as anyone has discerned it, cuts against the Kaleys: It confirms that even under Mathews, they have no right to revisit the grand jury’s finding.[14]


     When we decided Monsanto, we effectively resolved this case too. If the question in a pre-trial forfeiture case is whether there is probable cause to think the defendant committed the crime alleged, then the answer is: whatever the grand jury decides. And even if we test that proposition by applying Mathews, we arrive at the same place: In considering such findings of probable cause, we have never thought the value of enhanced evidentiary procedures worth their costs. Congress of course may strike its own balance and give defendants like the Kaleys the kind of hearing they want. Indeed, Congress could disapprove of Monsanto itself and hold pre-trial seizures of property to a higher standard than probable cause. But the Due Process Clause, even when combined with a defendant’s Sixth Amendment interests, does not command those results. Accordingly, the Kaleys cannot challenge the grand jury’s conclusion that probable cause supports the charges against them. The grand jury gets the final word.

     We therefore affirm the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.


1  Between January 2012 and April 2013, for example, the Department of Justice returned over $1.5 billion in forfeited assets to more than 400,000 crime victims. See Dept. of Justice, Justice Department Returned $1.5 Billion to Victims of Crime Since January 2012 (Apr. 26, 2013), online at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/April/13-crm-480.html (as visited Feb. 21, 2014 and available in the Clerk of the Court’s case file).
2  The forfeiture statute itself requires a hearing when the Government seeks to restrain the assets of someone who has not yet been indicted. See . That statutory provision is not at issue in this case, which involves a pair of indicted defendants.
3  At oral argument, the Government agreed that a defendant has a constitutional right to a hearing on that question. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 45. We do not opine on the matter here.
4  Compare v. , 521 F. 3d 411 (CADC 2008) (holding that a defendant is entitled to raise such a challenge); v. , 37 Fed. Appx. 870, 873 (CA9 2002) (same); v. , 39 F. 3d 684, 700 (CA7 1994) (same); v. , 924 F. 2d 1186 (CA2 1991) (en banc) (same), with v. , 427 F. 3d 394, 406–407 (CA6 2005) (prohibiting a defendant from raising such a challenge); v. , 274 F. 3d 800, 803–806 (CA4 2001) (same); v. , 160 F. 3d 641, 648–649 (CA10 1998) (same).
5 An earlier version of the indictment did not include the money laundering charge. In its superseding indictment, the Government also accused Jennifer Gruenstrass, another sales representative, of transporting stolen property and money laundering. Her case went to trial, and she was acquitted. Several other sales representatives participating in the Kaleys’ activity entered guilty pleas (each to a charge of shipping stolen goods) during the Government’s investigation.
6  The grand jury’s unreviewed finding similarly may play a significant role in determining a defendant’s eligibility for release before trial under the Bail Reform Act of 1984, That statute creates a rebuttable presumption that a defendant is ineligible for bail if “there is probable cause to believe” she committed certain serious crimes. §§3142(e)(2)–(3), (f). The Courts of Appeal have uniformly held that presumption to operate whenever an indictment charges those offenses. Relying on our instruction that an indictment returned by a proper grand jury “conclusively determines the existence of probable cause,” the courts have denied defendants’ calls for any judicial reconsideration of that issue. v. , 776 F. 2d 51, 54 (CA2 1985) (quoting v. , , n. 19 (1975)); see, v. , 799 F. 2d 115, 117–119 (CA3 1986); v. , 804 F. 2d 157, 162–163 (CA1 1986) (); v. , 779 F. 2d 1467, 1477–1479 (CA11 1985).
7 Contrary to the dissent’s characterization, see at 11–12, nothing in our reasoning depends on viewing one consequence of a probable cause determination (say, detention) as “greater” than another (say, the asset freeze here). (We suspect that would vary from case to case, with some defendants seeing the loss of liberty as the more significant deprivation and others the loss of a chosen lawyer.) We simply see no reason to treat a grand jury’s probable cause determination as conclusive for all other purposes (including, in some circumstances, locking up the defendant), but not for the one at issue here.
8 A prosecutor, of course, might drop the case because of the court’s ruling, especially if he thought that decision would bring into play an ethical standard barring any charge “that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause.” ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(a) (2013). But then the court would have effectively done what we have long held it cannot: overrule the grand jury on whether to bring a defendant to trial. See , at 7–8.
9  The dissent argues that the same is true when a judge hears evidence on whether frozen assets are traceable to a crime, because that allegation also appears in the indictment. See , at 6–7;, at 3, and n. 3.But the tracing of assets is a technical matter far removed from the grand jury’s core competence and traditional function—to determine whether there is probable cause to think the defendant committed a crime. And a judge’s finding that assets are not traceable to the crime charged in no way casts doubt on the prosecution itself. So that determination does not similarly undermine the grand jury or create internal contradictions within the criminal justice system.
10  The dissent claims as well that the hearing the Kaleys seek “would not be mere relitigation” of the grand jury’s decision because they could now “tell their side of the story.” , at 8. But the same could be said of an adversarial hearing on an indictment’s validity, which everyone agrees is impermissible because it “look[s] into and revise[s]” the grand jury’s judgment. See (quoting v. ). The lesson of our precedents, as described above, is that a grand jury’s finding is “conclusive”—and thus precludes subsequent proceedings on the same matter—even though not arising from adversarial testing. See at 7–8; see also , at 17–18.
11  The dissent says not to worry—the Government can obtain the assets after conviction by using ’s “relation-back” provision. See at 15. That provision is intended to aid the Government in recovering funds transferred to a third party—here, the Kaleys’ lawyer—subsequent to the crime. But forfeiture applies only to specific assets, so in the likely event that the third party has spent the money, the Government must resort to a State’s equitable remedies—which may or may not even be available—to force him to disgorge an equivalent amount. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 48–49. And indeed, if the Government easily recover such monies, then few lawyers would agree to represent defendants like the Kaleys, and the dissent’s proposed holding would be for naught.
12  Compare Cassella, Criminal Forfeiture Procedure, 32 Am. J. Crim. L. 55, 63 (2004) (explaining that “defendants tend to demand the hearing . . . to afford defense counsel an early opportunity to discover the nature of the Government’s criminal case and to cross-examine some of the Government’s witnesses”) with May, Attorney Fees and Government Forfeiture, 34 Champion 20, 23 (Apr. 2010) (advising that “[e]ven if defense counsel cannot prevail on the facts or the law, he may be able to prevail anyway” because “[s]ometimes the government will decide to give up its restraint on a piece of property rather than engage in litigation that will result in early discovery”).
13  Still, a restraint on assets could not deprive the Kaleys of representation sufficient to ensure fair proceedings. The would require the appointment of effective counsel if the Kaleys were unable to hire a lawyer. See v. , ; v. , . The vast majority of criminal defendants proceed with appointed counsel. And the Court has never thought, as the dissent suggests today, that doing so risks the “fundamental fairness of the actual trial.” , at 12; see , at 17–18. If it does, the right way to start correcting the problem is not by adopting the dissent’s position, but by ensuring that the right to effective counsel is fully vindicated.
14  As against all this—all we have formerly held and all other courts have actually found—the dissent cites nothing: not a single decision of ours suggesting, nor a single decision of a lower court demonstrating, that formal, adversarial procedures are at all likely to correct any grand jury errors. The dissent argues only that a hearing will have “probable value” for the Kaleys because “the deprivation of [their] right” to chosen counsel, once accomplished, is “effectively permanent.” , at 16. But that argument confuses two different parts of the inquiry. The dissent’s point well underscores the importance of the Kaleys’ interest: As we have readily acknowledged, if the grand jury made a mistake, the Kaleys have suffered a serious injury, which cannot later be corrected. See , at 16–17. (We note, though, that the dissent, in asserting that injury’s uniqueness, understates the losses that always attend a mistaken indictment, which no ultimate verdict can erase.) But the dissent’s argument about what is at stake for the Kaleys says nothing about the crucial, last prong of , which asks whether and to what extent the adversarial procedures they request will in fact correct any grand jury errors. That part of the analysis is what requires our decision, and the dissent’s view that the Government overreached in this particular case cannot overcome it.
Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.