F/V American Eagle v. State, No. 39

CourtSupreme Court of Alaska (US)
Writing for the CourtBefore RABINOWITZ; RABINOWITZ; BOOCHEVER; CONNOR
Citation620 P.2d 657
PartiesThe F/V AMERICAN EAGLE, ADF&Gand $100,677.50 Representing the Proceeds of 143,825 lbs. of Alaska King Crab Delivered Pursuant to ADF&G Fish Ticket No. 's E95626, E95627, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, v. STATE of Alaska, Appellee and Cross Appellant. STATE of Alaska, Appellant, v. The F/V AMERICAN EAGLE, ADF&Gand $100,677.50 Representing the Proceeds of 143,825 lbs. of Alaska King Crab Delivered Pursuant to ADF&G Fish Ticketppellee.
Docket NumberNos. E95626,3974,Nos. 3973,A,4023,No. 39,E95627
Decision Date21 November 1980

Page 657

620 P.2d 657
The F/V AMERICAN EAGLE, ADF&G No. 39 and $100,677.50
Representing the Proceeds of 143,825 lbs. of Alaska King
Crab Delivered Pursuant to ADF&G Fish Ticket No. 's E95626,
E95627, Appellant and Cross-Appellee,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee and Cross Appellant.
STATE of Alaska, Appellant,
v.
The F/V AMERICAN EAGLE, ADF&G No. 39 and $100,677.50
Representing the Proceeds of 143,825 lbs. of
Alaska King Crab Delivered Pursuant to
ADF&G Fish Ticket Nos. E95626,
E95627, Appellee.
Nos. 3973, 3974, 4023.
Supreme Court of Alaska.
Nov. 21, 1980.

Page 660

Douglas M. Fryer, Moriarty, Mikkelborg, Broz, Wells & Fryer, Seattle, Wash., William B. Rozell, Faulkner, Banfield, Doogan & Holmes, Juneau, for appellant, cross-appellee.

John G. Gissberg, Asst. Atty. Gen., Anchorage, Avrum M. Gross, Atty. Gen., Juneau, for appellee, cross-appellant.

OPINION

Before RABINOWITZ, C. J., CONNOR, BURKE and MATTHEWS, JJ., and STEWART, Superior Court Judge.

RABINOWITZ, Chief Justice.

This case involves an in rem civil forfeiture proceeding brought for alleged violations of Alaska's laws regulating this state's important king crab fishery. On January 15, 1976, the fishing vessel American Eagle was seized by state officials while it was unloading crab in Pelican, Alaska. The seizure was pursuant to AS 16.05.190-.195, 1 for violating various regulations prohibiting the taking and possession, during closed season, of king crab from the Egg Island district of king crab statistical area "O" in the Aleutian Islands. The vessel's on-board gear and proceeds equal to $100,677.50 from the sale of crab were also

Page 661

seized. The state subsequently filed a complaint for forfeiture which in its final amended form alleged the following specific violations: taking or possessing king crab out of season as defined by 5 AAC 34.610 2 and Westward Region Emergency Shellfish Orders No. 20 and 23, 3 and prohibited by 5 AAC 34.098, 4 5 AAC 34.090(a) 5 and AS 16.10.200 6 on or about January 7, 1976, and taking or possessing king crab out of season in violation of 5 AAC 34.090(c), 7 and AS 16.10.210. 8 The vessel was later released for local fishing pursuant to a stipulated order of the parties dated February 10, 1976, in exchange for the posting of a bond by the owners in the amount of $350,000. Trial in this matter was held in the superior court at Kodiak. The court's final order directed forfeiture of the crab sale proceeds and the bond posted for the release of the vessel.

This appeal has been brought by the owners of the vessel, Harold Hansen, Severin Hjelle, and Reidar Tynes, all residents of Washington. The owners allege (1) the

Page 662

state had no jurisdiction to regulate the fishing activities of the vessel beyond the three-mile Alaska territorial waters limit; (2) the regulations which the vessel was alleged to have violated are unconstitutionally vague; (3) the absence of an in rem procedure and a prompt post-service hearing denied the owners due process of law; (4) the trial court erred in admitting statistical evidence relating to crab migration and size; and (5) the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees to the state.

The state has brought a cross-appeal, alleging that the trial court erred in allowing the owners of the vessel to substitute the $350,000 bond in lieu of forfeiting the vessel. We find no merit in either appeal, and affirm the lower court's ruling.

I. Jurisdiction over the vessel's fishing activities in waters beyond Alaska's three-mile territorial limit.

There is some dispute over whether the American Eagle was operating within or beyond the three-mile territorial limit of state waters when the regulations were allegedly violated. 9 However, assuming the operations were beyond the three-mile limit, we conclude that the state possesses valid authority to regulate crab fishing in these waters. This precise question was decided in State v. Bundrant, 546 P.2d 530 (Alaska), appeal dismissed sub nom. Uri v. State, 429 U.S. 806, 97 S.Ct. 40, 50 L.Ed.2d 66 (1976), a decision published one week after the American Eagle allegedly violated the law. In Bundrant we upheld the state's exercise of regulatory jurisdiction over crab fisheries beyond the three-mile limit against arguments based on federal exclusivity, preemption, and other doctrines. 10 This power to regulate beyond the territorial boundary, where the crab spend much of their life cycle, was shown in that case to be clearly necessary if the economically and ecologically important migratory crab population within the state's territorial boundary

Page 663

is to be perpetuated. 546 P.2d at 557. 11 Although some of the specific statutes and regulations questioned in this case differ from those discussed in Bundrant, both cases involve challenges by fishermen who reside in another state to Alaska laws which prohibit the taking or possession of king crab outside the territorial limit of state waters, or the subsequent transport and sale of crab within Alaska waters. 12 We therefore reaffirm Bundrant, as applied to this case.

II. Unconstitutional vagueness of the regulations applied to the F/V American Eagle.

A statute or regulation is impermissibly vague when the "language is so indefinite that the perimeters of the prohibited zone of conduct are unclear," violating rights to due process because the law fails to give adequate notice of what type of conduct is prohibited. Marks v. City of Anchorage, 500 P.2d 644, 646 (Alaska 1972). The owners of the American Eagle argue that the regulations which the vessel was accused of violating are unconstitutionally vague because they fail to identify with certainty the area subject to regulation by the state which was closed to king crab fishing at the time of the alleged violations.

Some ambiguity did exist in the applicable regulations, as a result of conflict over the extent of the state's jurisdictional power. In 1968 the Alaska Board of Fish and Game had adopted 5 AAC 36.040, making it unlawful to transport, possess, buy or sell any king crab "taken in violation of the rules and regulations promulgated by the board," if such crab was taken "in any waters seaward of that officially designated as the territorial waters of Alaska ...." Hjelle v. Brooks, 377 F.Supp. 430, 433 (D.C. Alaska 1974); State v. Bundrant, 546 P.2d 530, 533 (Alaska 1976). In 1974, crab fishermen were successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of this regulation from the federal district court in Alaska. The three-judge panel held that the evidence before the court at that time did not prove a sufficient basis for an extraterritorial regulation applicable only to crab taken beyond the three-mile limit, but confirmed that Alaska could regulate king crab fishing beyond the three-mile boundary if regulations related to a "nexus between its legitimate state interests and its regulation of certain extraterritorial conduct, Hjelle v. Brooks, 377 F.Supp. at 441. 13

Page 664

In conformity with this decision, the state amended its king crab regulations to the form in existence at the time of the American Eagle's alleged violations. These regulations established statistical areas, each consisting of a "registration area" where state conservation laws would be enforced "to protect and maintain the king crab resources of the state," 5 AAC 34.005(c) and an adjacent "seaward biological influence zone" where the state would collect information for the development of protective regulations to govern "king crab resources inhabiting waters subject to the jurisdiction of the state." 5 AAC 34.005(d). The registration area was defined as "comprised of all waters within the statistical area which are waters subject to the jurisdiction of the state," while the seaward biological influence zone was described as "all waters within the statistical area which are not part of the registration area." 5 AAC 34.005(b). The geographic boundaries of statistical area O, were defined exactly in 5 AAC 34.600. The seaward boundary was designated as the 800-fathom depth contour. 14 The Egg Island district of statistical area O, in which the alleged violations occurred, had its exact boundaries described in 5 AAC 34.605(c). 15 However, nowhere in the regulations was the boundary, if any was intended to exist, between the registration area of statistical area O and the seaward biological influence zone of the same area delineated.

Thus, the seaward boundary of the area in which the state intended to enforce its regulations within each statistical area was left unspecified. The intent, according to the state, was for the boundary to extend within the statistical area as far beyond the three-mile limit as state jurisdiction could be justified in a trial on the merits under the Hjelle criteria. The vessel owners argue on the other hand that the only reasonable interpretation of the regulations is that the state intended to regulate only to the three-mile limit, in response to the Hjelle decision. If this was the intention, a phrase such as "territorial waters of Alaska" employed in the pre-Hjelle and post-Bundrant regulations or "waters of Alaska," which defines the state's territorial waters in 5 AAC 39.975(3), would reasonably have been employed, rather than "waters subject to the jurisdiction of the state" utilized in describing the boundary of a registration area in the version of 5 AAC 34.005(b) adopted after Hjelle. While we disagree with this interpretation by the owners, 16 the ambiguity in the language employed in the regulations is evident.

Regardless of the ambiguity in delineating the registration area, however, the Emergency Orders issued by the state prior to the American Eagle's activities in the Egg Island district left little question that the entire district was closed to king crab fishing as of November 7, 1975. Authorized by AS 16.05.060, Emergency Closure Orders have the force and effect of law. 17 Although

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31 practice notes
  • Von Neumann v. U.S., No. 79-3761
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • November 5, 1981
    ...Cuban "Freedom Flotilla" for failure to provide prompt post-seizure hearings; relying on Lee and Stypmann); F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 666-67 (Alaska 1980) (citing Lee and Stypmann for the proposition that a post-seizure hearing must be prompt even when the government intere......
  • Glover v. State, Dot, Marine Hwy. System, No. S-12220.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • January 18, 2008
    ...applied to cases filed after its effective date, the statute was not considered by the superior court or the parties in this case. 119. 620 P.2d 657, 673-74 (Alaska 120. Id. 1. We have edited the superior court's decision to conform to our technical rules. 2. 502 U.S. 197, 112 S.Ct. 560, 11......
  • State v. F/V Baranof, Nos. 7287
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • February 10, 1984
    ...v. City of Burbank, 457 F.2d 667 (9th Cir.1972), aff'd 411 U.S. 624, 93 S.Ct. 1854, 36 L.Ed.2d 547 (1973); F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 662 n. 10 (Alaska 1980), appeal dismissed 454 U.S. 1130, 102 S.Ct. 985, 71 L.Ed.2d 284 Since no federal king crab regulations have been promu......
  • K-Mart Corp. v. Washington, K-MART
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • December 30, 1993
    ...of discretion.' " Land Resources Dev. v. Kaiser Aetna, 100 Nev. 29, 34, 676 P.2d 235, 238 (1984) (quoting F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 672 (Alaska 1980)). Evidence is relevant where it has some tendency to make the existence of any material fact more or less probable than it w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Von Neumann v. U.S., No. 79-3761
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • November 5, 1981
    ...Cuban "Freedom Flotilla" for failure to provide prompt post-seizure hearings; relying on Lee and Stypmann); F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 666-67 (Alaska 1980) (citing Lee and Stypmann for the proposition that a post-seizure hearing must be prompt even when the government intere......
  • Glover v. State, Dot, Marine Hwy. System, No. S-12220.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • January 18, 2008
    ...applied to cases filed after its effective date, the statute was not considered by the superior court or the parties in this case. 119. 620 P.2d 657, 673-74 (Alaska 120. Id. 1. We have edited the superior court's decision to conform to our technical rules. 2. 502 U.S. 197, 112 S.Ct. 560, 11......
  • State v. F/V Baranof, Nos. 7287
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • February 10, 1984
    ...v. City of Burbank, 457 F.2d 667 (9th Cir.1972), aff'd 411 U.S. 624, 93 S.Ct. 1854, 36 L.Ed.2d 547 (1973); F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 662 n. 10 (Alaska 1980), appeal dismissed 454 U.S. 1130, 102 S.Ct. 985, 71 L.Ed.2d 284 Since no federal king crab regulations have been promu......
  • K-Mart Corp. v. Washington, K-MART
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • December 30, 1993
    ...of discretion.' " Land Resources Dev. v. Kaiser Aetna, 100 Nev. 29, 34, 676 P.2d 235, 238 (1984) (quoting F/V American Eagle v. State, 620 P.2d 657, 672 (Alaska 1980)). Evidence is relevant where it has some tendency to make the existence of any material fact more or less probable than it w......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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