While you may not consider Civil Procedure your favorite class, you can’t deny that it has an important place in the legal world. The Rules govern everything you do, and as the New Zealand police are finding out, it’s crucial to get it right.
In January, the Justice Department and the FBI seized the website Megaupload.com and charged seven people with running an international enterprise based on Internet piracy, copyright infringement, and conspiracy; the charges could result in more than 20 years in prison. Four of the seven people were arrested in New Zealand, including the site’s founder, Kim Dotcom.
Police also seized nearly $200 million worth of Mr. Dotcom’s personal property in the raid on his New Zealand Estate. The list includes: at least 18 luxury vehicles, artwork, and electronics such as TVs and cameras.
While this was first heralded as one of the largest crackdowns on Internet piracy, it was not without its faults. One of the biggest problems currently facing the police in their case is that they filled out the wrong paperwork to authorize the seizure of property.
The Police Commissioner applied an inapplicable statute and ended up filing for the wrong kind of restraining order. This is especially serious because it prevented Mr. Dotcom from having a chance to appear in court beforehand to challenge the order. About a week and a half after the raid took place, the police realized their error and refiled with the correct paperwork, though all of the items listed to be seized were already in their custody.
The Judge invalidated the original order, but has temporarily allowed the new one to stand. The police are arguing that even though they made at least five errors in the filing of the paperwork, because the Judge has temporarily granted the new order, this should be a non-issue. The defense however, is arguing that because the seizure order was invalid at the time of the raid, Mr. Dotcom’s belongings were unlawfully seized and restrained and need to be released.
Under New Zealand law, the courts allow a small margin of leeway in regards to filing errors. The defense will have to show that the police acted in bad faith in order to invalidate the order.
What do you think of this result? Should the police be allowed to have a margin of error in regards to filing errors? Should there be a different standard then bad faith?