Thank you to everyone who is part of the recent surge of enthusiasm
for stepping up FEAR's volunteer activities. Here is a list of
that we could use volunteers for. Click
to see a chart of FEAR committees and their functions and projects.
To volunteer, fill out the Application
Activist List and check the tasks you would be willing to
This is a simple, yet extremely important activity that anyone can do. Our greatest obstacle in achieving reform is that people don't know about the draconian laws allowing nearly unfettered confiscation of property by the government. In my experience, once people hear about the problem, they are almost certain to agree that the current system is unfair. The best places to distribute pamphlets are in locations where others are likely to read them. Distributing them on the street may be less valuable, since people often discard such pamphlets immediately. (And, unfortunately, because the system is so outrageous, there is the chance that those who do read them may dismiss the information in the pamphlet as untrue.) Our message will have a much greater effect if you spread it to people who will be receptive to you. This includes people who will listen to you personally (i.e., friends, relatives, coworkers, members of organizations of which you are a member) and those who are already likely to be politically sympathetic to our concerns (i.e., libertarians, property rights supporters, civil libertarians). Contact Tom Gordon if you would like to distribute pamphlets, and he can send you a stack of pamphlets, or (if you want to help FEAR save money) a master pamphlet from which you can make copies.
Or you can print out a master copy of the pamphlets directly from
The FEAR tri-fold flyer
What to do when your property has been seized
Outreach to other organizations:
While I've been working here in Washington with many national organizations to fight the menace of forfeiture, it is just as important to have a strong relationship with groups on the state and local level that share our goals (or should share them but don't know it yet). As Brenda suggested, one of the best things you can do is to contact your local ACLU/NRA/Libertarian Party/Chamber of Commerce/Bankers Association/Realtors Association chapter and see what they're doing about forfeiture reform. If the answer is "Nothing" or "What's that?", then let them know how forfeiture affects their concerns.
Speak to groups
FEAR often receives requests for speakers from various groups around
the country. However, our budget doesn't allow any travel, so we
have to turn many of these down. If you would be willing to speak
to a group on behalf of FEAR, please check the appropriate lines on FEAR's
Lobby local, state, and federal officials
One of the most effective ways of achieving reform is through grassroots activism, specifically by making your concerns known to your elected officials. A few constituents speaking their mind to their legislator will often have a much greater effect on his/her position than the voice of yet another Washington-based organization. In California, FEAR's coordinated grassroots efforts a few years ago helped change that state's forfeiture law. If we can do this in California, we can do it in smaller states, too. As many of you know from recent FEAR-list postings, Janet Nikas Tarver, Jack Keane and Arnold Gaunt have been organizing lobbying activity in their states. We hope their activity will inspire others to join together to meet with legislators in their own states. And don't forget about lobbying your representatives in the U.S. Congress; one can often arrange a meeting with one's congressman when they return to the district during Congress's recess.
Start an active state chapter
The best way to support all of these activities is by building an active state chapter. Organizing a state chapter provides a link between the national FEAR office and our grassroots activities and lets people on the state level coordinate successfully coordinate those activities. Anyone who is interested in joining with others in their state to form an official FEAR chapter should contact Brenda Grantland.
Compile news clippings
This is a simple but important task that anyone can do. While FEAR can easily access news stories about forfeiture that are national in scope, we cannot so easily get information about the myriad forfeiture cases that take place daily and receive only local coverage. If you read a newspaper or magazine story about a particular forfeiture, or forfeiture in general, scan it, type it in, or summarize it and e-mail it to FEAR-List@mapinc.org.
Write Letters to the Editor
An excellent way to raise public awareness of forfeiture is by writing letters to the editor. If your local paper runs a story about forfeiture, it deserves a response, either to praise it or to criticize it. Don't let the media get away with accepting the police's line that "forfeiture is only used against criminals." Let them know the truth about the innocent victims and lack of due process inherent in the current system. If you do write a letter to the editor, send a copy to FEAR-List@mapinc.org -- and if you have the time, also send the article it was written in response to.
Review and revise FEAR's "Proposal for Reform"
One project that's long overdue is a revision of FEAR's Position Paper "FEDERAL ASSET FORFEITURE LAWS NEED TO BE AMENDED TO RESTORE DUE PROCESS AND PROTECT PROPERTY RIGHTS IN THE FORFEITURE PROCESS: F.E.A.R.'s Proposal For Reform". This document was the basis for many of the changes we successfully lobbied for in California, and should be used in other lobbying efforts, but needs to be updated before we can do so. Anyone interested in helping revise the proposal should contact Brenda Grantland.
FEAR used to hold protests at auctions where confiscated property was sold, informing auction patrons that they were buying stolen property. This was a great way to draw attention to the organization while attempting to lower the government's ability to profit from its theft. It would be great to start this program again. Contact Tom Gordon if you're interested.
Help with fundraising activities
While FEAR does rely heavily on volunteers, we still need money to continue to run our national office. Although we always appreciate your financial contributions, there are many other ways you can help FEAR raise the money it needs to continue operating. If you are interested in hosting or helping to plan a FEAR fundraising event in your area, contact Leon Felkins. Also, you can help spread the word about FEAR's reform efforts to others and encourage them to join and/or donate to FEAR.
Help with e-mail correspondence
We need someone to volunteer to reply to the people who leave messages for FEAR in the website Guestbook. To volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR "COMPUTER PEOPLE"
Assist with the website
People with a knowledge of HTML and/or those who can scan material for the website are needed. If you're interested, e-mail email@example.com.
FOR FORFEITURE VICTIMS
FEAR exists for your benefit, and we certainly don't expect anything in return. However, some of you have asked what you can do to help prevent others from going through what you have endured. Here are a few suggestions:
Be available for the media
Much of the public doesn't believe in forfeiture reform because they aren't aware of the problem. By telling the public your story, you can show people that this is not some esoteric issue of constitutional rights, but a real problem with human victims. If you are willing to make yourself or your story available for the media, please fill out our Volunteer Application and attach it to an email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victim support group
Sunni Liston, a forfeiture survivor, has been running a very successful support network for victims, letting them know that they are not alone and that they too can get through this ordeal. If you wish to help Sunni with this project, contact Sunni Liston.
Volunteer for cases & give advice to pro se defendants
While FEAR's primary focus is on public education and legislative reform, we do want to help individual victims whenever possible. If you would be willing to volunteer to take a pro bono case, or would like to make yourself available to answer occasional questions from pro se forfeiture victims, then contact Brenda Grantland and let her know what experience, if any, you have in forfeiture law.
We need attorneys willing to prepare amicus briefs on behalf of FEAR whenever any forfeiture or seizure issue goes before the Supreme Court. To volunteer contact Brenda Grantland
Donate briefs/pleadings to brief bank
If you have briefs or pleadings from forfeiture cases you have handled before, please donate them to our website Brief Bank. Contact Brenda Grantland for information on submitting material.
Note: Attorneys may obtain free access to the brief bank or a free listing in our online attorney directory in exchange for a significant donation of pleadings to the brief bank. Please contact Brenda Grantland for details.
FOR LAW STUDENTS
Research for forfeiture defense manual
FEAR Asset Forfeiture Defense Manual authors Brenda Grantland and Judy Osburn are working on Volumn II of their forfeiture defense manual to be published in 2007. Contact Brenda Grantland for details.
Hopefully there's something listed above to suit everyone's talents and preferences.