U.S. v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, No. 02-3177.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLoken
Citation328 F.3d 1011
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ONE LINCOLN NAVIGATOR 1998, Defendant. Freddie Bearden; Wanda Breedlove Andrews, Claimants-Appellants.
Decision Date19 May 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-3177.
328 F.3d 1011
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ONE LINCOLN NAVIGATOR 1998, Defendant.
Freddie Bearden; Wanda Breedlove Andrews, Claimants-Appellants.
No. 02-3177.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Submitted: January 14, 2003.
Filed: May 19, 2003.

Page 1012

Terrence Cain, argued, Little Rock, AR, for Appellant.

Todd L. Newton, argued, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Little Rock, AR (H.E. (Bud) Cummins, on the brief), for Appellee.

Before LOKEN,* FAGG, and MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judges.

LOKEN, Chief Judge.


The United States seized the 1998 Lincoln Navigator used by Eric Austin in distributing crack cocaine and commenced this civil action to forfeit the vehicle under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(4) and (j). Freddie Bearden, Austin's grandmother, and Wanda Breedlove Andrews, Austin's mother, then filed claims contesting the forfeiture on the ground that each is an innocent owner of the Navigator. See 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(4) & (d). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States, concluding that neither Bearden nor Andrews has standing to contest the forfeiture. The court based this decision in part on its findings as to their credibility at a prior evidentiary hearing. Bearden and Andrews appeal. We conclude that they have Article III standing to contest the forfeiture. In addition, the district court's decision that they lack statutory standing was a ruling on the merits of their claims that violated their right to a jury trial. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

After filing ownership claims, Bearden and Andrews petitioned the district court for immediate release of the Navigator to them on grounds of substantial hardship. See 18 U.S.C. § 983(f)(1) & (3).1 The court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition at which Bearden, Andrews, and Austin testified to the following background facts. Bearden purchased the Navigator in March 1999 with $37,000 of the settlement proceeds she received from a California lawsuit. The Arkansas Certificate of Title for the car lists Andrews as its owner. Bearden testified she placed the title in Andrews's name so that Bearden would not lose her disability benefits. Following the purchase, Bearden paid most ownership expenses, including taxes, insurance, repairs, and gasoline. While admitting that Austin put most of the miles on the Navigator with her permission, Bearden testified that she used the Navigator to drive another daughter to and from work, that the daughter lost her job when the car was seized, and that losing the car was a hardship on Bearden and her family.

Page 1013

At the close of the hearing, the district court denied the petition for immediate release, finding that Austin "had the great lion share of the use of this car" and therefore "I don't think ... there could have been all that much hardship to the other members of the family who never were driving it much anyway." The court expressly noted conflicts and problems in the testimony of Bearden, Andrews, and Austin. Two weeks later, the government moved for summary judgment dismissing the innocent ownership claims on the grounds that Bearden and Andrews do not meet the statutory definition of owners and, in addition, cannot prove they are innocent owners within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 983(d)(2)(A). On the same day, claimants requested a jury trial. Based upon the evidence introduced at the hardship hearing, the district court granted the government's motion, concluding that claimants lack standing to contest the forfeiture because "Bearden possessed only bare legal title to the Navigator although she had allegedly paid for the vehicle," and Andrews "does not have any ownership in the Navigator although the Navigator was titled in her name."

Article III standing is a threshold question in every federal court case. "[T]he question is whether the person whose standing is challenged is a proper party to request an adjudication of a particular issue." United States v. 1998 BMW "I" Convertible, 235 F.3d 397, 399 (8th Cir.2000), quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99-100, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). In a forfeiture case, a claimant's Article III standing turns on whether the claimant has a sufficient ownership interest in the property to create a case or controversy. This threshold burden is not rigorous: "To have standing, a claimant need not prove the underlying merits of the claim. The claimant need only show a colorable interest in the property, redressable, at least in part, by a return of the property." United States v. 7725 Unity Ave. N., 294 F.3d 954, 957 (8th Cir.2002) (citation omitted). We have held in numerous cases that a colorable ownership interest "may be evidenced in a number of ways including showings of actual possession, control, title and financial stake." United States v. One 1945 Douglas C-54 (DC-4) Aircraft, 647 F.2d 864, 866 (8th Cir.1981); see 7725 Unity Ave., 294 F.3d at 956; 1998 BMW, 235 F.3d at 399; United States v. One 1990 Chevrolet Corvette, 37 F.3d 421, 422 (8th Cir.1994).

Ownership interests are defined by the law of the State in which the interest arose, here,...

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118 practice notes
  • Jackson v. Abendroth & Russell, P.C., No. 4:16-cv-00113-RGE-HCA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 12, 2016
    ...The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing standing. United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998 , 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003). In considering whether a party has standing, the Court "must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and mus......
  • In re Patterson Companies, Inc. Securities, No. 05cv1757(DSD/JJG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • March 20, 2007
    ...standing, defendants arguing Dolliver has neither and plaintiff arguing she has both. See United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1014 (8th Cir.2003) (distinction between Article III and statutory standing). To satisfy notions of Article III standing, a plaintiff must de......
  • Hammer v. Sam's E., Inc., Nos. 12–3724
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 2014
    ...III Standing “Article III standing is a threshold question in every federal court case.” United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003). “The exercise of judicial power under Art. III of the Constitution depends on the existence of a case or controversy.” Pr......
  • United States v. $7,599,358.09, Civil Action No. 10–5060 (SRC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 29, 2013
    ...of ways including showings of actual possession, control, title and financial stake.’ ” United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003); see also Munoz–Valencia v. United States, 169 Fed.Appx. 150, 152 (3d Cir.2006) (holding, in the forfeiture context, that c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
118 cases
  • Jackson v. Abendroth & Russell, P.C., No. 4:16-cv-00113-RGE-HCA
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • September 12, 2016
    ...The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing standing. United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998 , 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003). In considering whether a party has standing, the Court "must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and mus......
  • In re Patterson Companies, Inc. Securities, No. 05cv1757(DSD/JJG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of Minnesota
    • March 20, 2007
    ...standing, defendants arguing Dolliver has neither and plaintiff arguing she has both. See United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1014 (8th Cir.2003) (distinction between Article III and statutory standing). To satisfy notions of Article III standing, a plaintiff must de......
  • Hammer v. Sam's E., Inc., Nos. 12–3724
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 2014
    ...III Standing “Article III standing is a threshold question in every federal court case.” United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003). “The exercise of judicial power under Art. III of the Constitution depends on the existence of a case or controversy.” Pr......
  • United States v. $7,599,358.09, Civil Action No. 10–5060 (SRC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • August 29, 2013
    ...of ways including showings of actual possession, control, title and financial stake.’ ” United States v. One Lincoln Navigator 1998, 328 F.3d 1011, 1013 (8th Cir.2003); see also Munoz–Valencia v. United States, 169 Fed.Appx. 150, 152 (3d Cir.2006) (holding, in the forfeiture context, that c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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