789 F.2d 627 (8th Cir. 1986), 85-1396, United States v. Beechcraft Queen Airplane Serial No. LD-24

Docket Nº:85-1396.
Citation:789 F.2d 627
Case Date:April 29, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 627

789 F.2d 627 (8th Cir. 1986)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,



No. 85-1396.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 29, 1986

Submitted Jan. 15, 1986.

Rehearing Denied May 30, 1986.

Page 628

Timothy O. Dudley, Little Rock, Ark., for appellant.

Steven N. Snyder, Fort Smith, Ark., for appellee.

Before HEANEY, ARNOLD and WOLLMAN, Circuit Judges.

ARNOLD, Circuit Judge.

This is a suit by the United States for forfeiture of an airplane allegedly used in illegal drug trade. Beechcraft Queen Airplane, Serial No. LD-24, appeals from the District Court's 1 decree of forfeiture. For reversal, appellant argues that 1) the trial

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court erred in striking an answer filed by one Bruce Brown and granting a default judgment to plaintiff; and 2) the trial court had no subject matter jurisdiction over the action. We affirm.


The government's complaint alleged in substance as follows. In March 1983, Bruce Stanley Brown crashed a Cessna airplane in Louisiana. A search of the plane revealed marijuana debris, certain equipment needed for long-range over-water flights, and registration papers in the name of Jake V. Taylor for the Beechcraft Queen that is the subject of this action. A search warrant was obtained for the Beechcraft on February 19, 1984; the search revealed marijuana seeds in the plane and evidence that all the seats had been removed and replaced.

The complaint, filed on August 31, 1984, sought forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881(a)(4), on the ground that the plane had been used to transport marijuana. The Clerk of the District Court issued a warrant of seizure and monition, and the United States Marshal was directed to serve both the complaint and the warrant of seizure on the airplane and on Bruce Stanley Brown, a/k/a Jake V. Taylor, who was believed to be the plane's owner. On September 20, 1984, according to the return of service filed in the District Court, the Marshal served the plane at the Arkadelphia, Arkansas airport, and put warning posters on the plane to give notice that it had been seized. Arkadelphia is in the Western District of Arkansas. On September 25, 1984, the Marshal served the warrant of seizure and the complaint on Bruce Brown at his place of employment in Louisiana.

In forfeiture proceedings brought under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881, the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims must be followed. 21 U.S.C. Sec. 881(b) (1982). Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules requires:

The claimant of property that is the subject of an action in rem shall file his claim within 10 days after process has been executed, or within such additional time as may be allowed by the court, and shall serve his answer within 20 days after the filing of the claim. The claim shall be verified on oath or solemn affirmation, and shall state the interest in the property by virtue of which the claimant demands its restitution and the right to defend the action.

Bruce Brown filed an answer to the complaint on October 12, 1984. Brown's answer admitted that he bought the plane in 1982, that he flew it to the Arkadelphia Airport, and that he had been paying $225.00 per month to Central Flying Service to store the plane at the airport. It did not specifically admit that he was the owner, and there was no sworn statement by Brown that he had an interest in the plane. The only signature on the answer was that of Brown's attorney. Brown did not file any pleadings within 10 days of service of process, and he never filed a verified claim of the type required by...

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