832 F.3d 170 (3rd Cir. 2016), 12-4574, Langbord v. United States Department of Treasury

Docket Nº:12-4574
Citation:832 F.3d 170
Opinion Judge:HARDIMAN, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Roy Langbord; David Langbord; Joan Langbord v. United States Department of the Treasury; United States Bureau of the Mint; Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury; Acting General Counsel of the United States Department of the Treasury; Director of the United States Mint; Chief Counsel United States Mint; Deputy Director of the...
Attorney:Barry H. Berke [Argued], Eric A. Tirschwell, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, Attorneys for Appellants Zane David Memeger, Robert A. Zauzmer [Argued], Jacqueline C. Romero, Nancy Rue, Office of United States Attorney, Attorneys for Defendants-Appellees
Judge Panel:Before: McKEE, Chief Judge, AMBRO, FUENTES, SMITH, FISHER, CHAGARES, JORDAN, HARDIMAN, VANASKIE, SHWARTZ, KRAUSE, and RENDELL, [*] Circuit Judges. [**] JORDAN, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment: RENDELL, Circuit Judge, dissenting with whom McKEE, Chief Judge and KRA...
Case Date:August 01, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
SUMMARY

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), 114 Stat. 202, requires the government, if it seizes property that someone else purports to own, to file a complaint for judicial forfeiture within 90 days or return the property, 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(3)(A). The government has a heightened burden of proof. The Langbords purportedly found, in their father’s safe deposit box, 10 double eagle $20 gold coins,... (see full summary)

 
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832 F.3d 170 (3rd Cir. 2016)

Roy Langbord; David Langbord; Joan Langbord

v.

United States Department of the Treasury; United States Bureau of the Mint; Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury; Acting General Counsel of the United States Department of the Treasury; Director of the United States Mint; Chief Counsel United States Mint; Deputy Director of the United States Mint; John Doe Nos. 1 to 10 “ John Doe" being fictional first and last names; United States of America

United States of America, Third Party Plaintiff

v.

Ten 1933 Double Eagle Gold Pieces; Roy Langbord; David Langbord; Joan Langbord, Third Party Defendants

Roy Langbord, David Langbord, Joan Langbord, Appellants.

No. 12-4574

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 1, 2016

         Argued on November 19, 2014 before Merits Panel

         Argued En Banc on October 14, 2015.

         Court Ordered Rehearing En Banc on July 28, 2015.

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         On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, (E.D. Pennsylvania No. 2-06-cv-05315), District Judge: Honorable Legrome D. Davis

         Barry H. Berke [Argued], Eric A. Tirschwell, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, Attorneys for Appellants

         Zane David Memeger, Robert A. Zauzmer [Argued], Jacqueline C. Romero, Nancy Rue, Office of United States Attorney, Attorneys for Defendants-Appellees

         Before: McKEE, Chief Judge, AMBRO, FUENTES, SMITH, FISHER, CHAGARES, JORDAN, HARDIMAN, VANASKIE, SHWARTZ, KRAUSE, and RENDELL, * Circuit Judges. **

         OPINION

         HARDIMAN, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal presents a high-stakes dispute over ten pieces of gold. Joan Langbord and her sons, Roy and David Langbord, claim to be the rightful owners of the gold pieces while the Government claims they are property of the United States. Following a jury trial, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled in favor of the Government. The Langbords initially prevailed on appeal to this Court, but we vacated the panel opinion and agreed to hear the case en banc. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm the District Court’s judgment.

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         I

         The ten gold pieces at issue— 1933 Double Eagles with a face value of $20— were designed at the request of President Theodore Roosevelt by Augustus Saint-Gaudens shortly before the renowned sculptor’s death in 1907. During the next twenty-five years, the United States Mint manufactured and circulated tens of millions of Double Eagles as legal tender. Things changed significantly for the Double Eagle during the Great Depression, however. Within days of his inauguration on March 4, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a series of orders effectively prohibiting the Nation’s banks from paying out gold. See Proclamation No. 2039, 48 Stat. 1689-91 (Mar. 6, 1933); Exec. Order No. 6073 (Mar. 10, 1933). Less than three months later, the United States went off the gold standard. See Exec. Order No. 6102 (Apr. 5, 1933); H.R.J. Res. 192, 73d Cong., 48 Stat. 112-13 (June 5, 1933). That same year, the United States Mint in Philadelphia struck 445,500 Double Eagles, but they were never issued. Instead, all but 500 of the 1933 Double Eagles were placed into the Mint’s vault in June 1933. The remaining coins 1 were held by the Mint’s Cashier; of those, twenty-nine were destroyed in chemical reactions used to verify their metallic purity and two were sent to the Smithsonian Institution in October 1934.

         By 1937, all of the 1933 Double Eagles held at the Philadelphia Mint were supposed to have been melted. This turned out not to be the case, however, as some coins were transferred among collectors, which prompted the Secret Service to begin investigating the matter in March 1944. The following year, the Secret Service recovered a small number of 1933 Double Eagles and determined that they had been stolen from the Mint by George McCann, who was the Mint’s Cashier from 1934 to 1940. The Secret Service also concluded that the coins had been distributed by a Philadelphia merchant, Israel Switt, who was Joan Langbord’s father (and grandfather to Roy and David Langbord).

         Since 1944, the United States has attempted to locate and recover all extant 1933 Double Eagles. See United States v. Barnard, 72 F.Supp. 531, 532-33 (W.D. Tenn. 1947) (seeking replevin of a 1933 Double Eagle held by a private collector). The only exception has been a 1933 Double Eagle sold to King Farouk of Egypt in 1944 and later acquired in 1995 by Stephen Fenton, an English coin dealer. When Fenton attempted to resell that coin to a collector in New York, the Government seized it and a protracted legal dispute ensued. According to the Government, it agreed to resolve its dispute with Fenton because the Treasury Department had improvidently issued an export license for the coin when it was sold to King Farouk in 1944. The “ Fenton-Farouk Coin" was sold at auction in 2002 to an anonymous buyer for $7,590,020 and the net proceeds were divided equally between Fenton and the Government pursuant to their settlement agreement.

         Just over a year after the Fenton-Farouk Coin was sold at auction, Joan Langbord

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allegedly discovered ten 1933 Double Eagles in a family safe-deposit box. Her attorney, Barry Berke, who had represented Fenton in his dispute with the Government, contacted the Mint in an effort to resolve the Langbords’ claim in the same way. After meeting with Mint officials, the Langbords agreed to turn the coins over for authentication but reserved “ all rights and remedies." App. 806. The Mint took possession of the ten 1933 Double Eagles from Roy Langbord on September 22, 2004.

         The Mint authenticated the coins in May 2005, but refused to return them to the Langbords. In July 2005, attorney Berke asked the Mint to reverse course in light of its treatment of other coins of questionable provenance and argued that “ there [was] no basis for the government to seek forfeiture of the ... 1933 Double Eagles." App. 911-13. A month later, the Mint rejected Berke’s overture, writing: The United States Mint has no intention of seeking forfeiture of these ten Double Eagles because they are, and always have been, property belonging to the United States; this makes forfeiture proceedings entirely unnecessary. These Double Eagles never were lawfully issued but, instead, were taken out of the United States Mint at Philadelphia in an unlawful manner. Indeed, the Langbord family was legally obligated to return this property to the United States ... and will not be able to establish based on any reliable or admissible evidence how they currently possess, or ever possessed, title to this United States Government property.

App. 823.

         Although the Mint had disclaimed any intention of forfeiting the coins, the Langbords responded in September 2005 by sending a “ seized asset claim" to the Mint, invoking 18 U.S.C. § 983, a statute enacted by the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA), Pub. L. No. 106-185, 114 Stat. 202, that contains procedural protections for those whose property is subject to forfeiture. The Mint returned the claim to the Langbords “ without action." App. 837. In doing so, the Government argued that no seizure had occurred because “ all 1933 Double Eagles are, and always have been, property belonging to the United States" and that the family had “ voluntarily surrendered" the coins to the Mint. App. 837-38. In a series of missives exchanged in December 2005, the Langbords criticized the Mint for attempting to “ rewrite history and create some kind of record a few days before the deadline for the government to either return the coins or institute a forfeiture action." App. 841. The Mint responded curtly that the parties had a “ fundamental[ ] disagree[ment]." App. 848.

         II

         Unable to obtain relief through negotiation or administrative procedures, 2 the Langbords turned to the courts. In December 2006, they brought suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the Mint, the Department of the Treasury, and various federal officials. The Langbords alleged violations of the United States Constitution, CAFRA, and the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as common law torts. They also sought a declaratory judgment to require the Government to comply with CAFRA either by returning the coins

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or by commencing a forfeiture proceeding. The Government filed motions to dismiss, but they were denied. The Government then filed an answer without asserting any counterclaims.

         A

         Following discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment and the District Court rendered a split decision. See Langbord v. U.S. Dep’t of...

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