15 F.3d 632 (7th Cir. 1994), 92-4160, United States v. 7108 West Grand Ave., Chicago, Ill.

Docket Nº:92-4160.
Citation:15 F.3d 632
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. 7108 WEST GRAND AVENUE, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, Defendant, Feliberto Flores and Isabellita Flores, Claimants-Appellants.
Case Date:January 25, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 632

15 F.3d 632 (7th Cir. 1994)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

7108 WEST GRAND AVENUE, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, Defendant,

Feliberto Flores and Isabellita Flores, Claimants-Appellants.

No. 92-4160.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 25, 1994

Argued Nov. 17, 1993.

Page 633

James M. Kuhn, Asst. U.S. Atty., Chicago, IL, for U.S.

Allan A. Ackerman (argued), Joelle Hollander, Chicago, IL, for Isabellita Flores and Feliberto Flores.

Before PELL, CUDAHY, and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges.

EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge.

Claimants in this forfeiture proceeding pose the question whether their former attorney's gross negligence in representing their interests entitles them to another opportunity to litigate. The answer is No. Malpractice, gross or otherwise, may be a good reason to recover from the lawyer but does not justify prolonging litigation against the original adversary.

Feliberto Flores is in prison for federal drug offenses. See United States v. Flores, 5 F.3d 1070 (7th Cir.1993). The United States began forfeiture proceedings against three parcels of real property in his name, contending that they had been acquired with the proceeds of his drug business. Feliberto contends that he and his wife Isabellita retained Robert Habib to represent them in the forfeiture proceeding. Habib did not file a timely claim on Feliberto's behalf with respect to any of the three properties, and he filed a verified claim on Isabellita's behalf with respect to one parcel only. The United States filed a motion for default judgment concerning the property at 7108 West Grand Avenue (which is, by virtue of a Rule 54(b) judgment, the sole parcel in dispute on this appeal). Habib filed papers in opposition on behalf of Isabellita but did not contend that she has an ownership interest in the property. Feliberto is the sole record owner; Isabellita contends that an attorney other than Habib neglected to transfer a joint tenancy interest to her name. Habib did not request a stay under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881(i), which applies when a criminal proceeding is ongoing against a claimant. Neither Habib nor Isabellita appeared at the hearing on the motion for default judgment, which the district court granted. (Habib says that he had a conflicting engagement in another court, but this would be a reason to ask the court for a postponement, not to ignore the hearing.) Habib did not file a timely notice of appeal.

Represented by new counsel, Feliberto and Isabellita filed a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) for relief from the judgment. They blamed the lack of timely claims on Habib, and they contended that each...

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