U.S. v. One Parcel of Real Property With Bldgs., Appurtenances, and Improvements, Known as Plat 20, Lot 17, Great Harbor Neck, New Shoreham, R.I., Nos. 91-1681

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BREYER, Chief Judge, BOWNES, Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA; SELYA
Citation960 F.2d 200
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. ONE PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY WITH BUILDINGS, APPURTENANCES, AND IMPROVEMENTS, KNOWN AS PLAT 20, LOT 17, GREAT HARBOR NECK, NEW SHOREHAM, RHODE ISLAND, Defendant. Peter K. Beane, Claimant, Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, Appellee, v. ONE PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY WITH BUILDINGS, APPURTENANCES, AND IMPROVEMENTS, KNOWN AS PLAT 20, LOT 17, GREAT HARBOR NECK, NEW SHOREHAM, RHODE ISLAND, Defendant. Joel Beane and Carol Beane, Claimants, Appellants. . Heard
Docket Number91-1682,Nos. 91-1681
Decision Date06 January 1992

Page 200

960 F.2d 200
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, Appellee,
v.
ONE PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY WITH BUILDINGS, APPURTENANCES,
AND IMPROVEMENTS, KNOWN AS PLAT 20, LOT 17, GREAT
HARBOR NECK, NEW SHOREHAM, RHODE ISLAND,
Defendant.
Peter K. Beane, Claimant, Appellant.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, Appellee,
v.
ONE PARCEL OF REAL PROPERTY WITH BUILDINGS, APPURTENANCES,
AND IMPROVEMENTS, KNOWN AS PLAT 20, LOT 17, GREAT
HARBOR NECK, NEW SHOREHAM, RHODE ISLAND,
Defendant.
Joel Beane and Carol Beane, Claimants, Appellants.
Nos. 91-1681, 91-1682.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard Jan. 6, 1992.
Decided March 12, 1992.

Page 202

Jean Rosiello, with whom John A. MacFadyen, Providence, R.I., was on brief, for claimant, appellant Peter K. Beane.

Robert G. Flanders, Jr., with whom Neal J. McNamara and Flanders & Medeiros, Inc., Providence, R.I., were on brief, for claimants, appellants Joel Beane and Carol Beane.

Michael P. Iannotti, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Lincoln C. Almond, U.S. Atty., Providence, R.I., was on brief, for U.S.

Before BREYER, Chief Judge, BOWNES, Senior Circuit Judge, and SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Page 203

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

These consolidated appeals sprout from the discovery of a "marijuana farm" in New Shoreham, Rhode Island. Despite their shared roots, the appeals involve discrete claims and issues. The first appeal, prosecuted by Peter K. Beane, asks us to determine whether summary judgment foreclosing his claim to certain real property was duly entered in the underlying civil forfeiture action. The second appeal is prosecuted by Peter's siblings, Joel and Carol Beane, who were successful claimants in the same forfeiture proceeding. They ask us to reverse the district court's denial of their application for attorneys' fees and costs under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. § 2412 (1988). We reject both appeals.

I. BACKGROUND

We present the pertinent facts as reflected in the nisi prius roll, mindful of the case's posture. See Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir.1990) (elucidating summary judgment standard).

The three Beanes owned the subject property, an oceanside estate consisting of approximately sixteen acres of land, a main house, a cottage, and a pump house, as tenants in common. The property, which the Beanes used as a vacation home, had an estimated value of $1,800,000. Eventually, however, Peter Beane's penchant for cultivating marijuana put an end to his family's summer idyll. On September 5, 1989, state and local police, armed with a search warrant, found some 385 marijuana plants growing in several plots scattered around the homestead. The police also discovered strong evidence of human care and cultivation. Peter Beane was arrested and charged.

Federal attention followed hard on the heels of this state-local foray. On October 23, 1989, federal officers asked a magistrate-judge to issue a seizure warrant. Finding probable cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7) (1982 & Supp.1988), 1 the magistrate complied. A civil complaint for forfeiture in rem soon followed.

The appellants all intervened. Peter Beane challenged the attempted forfeiture of his undivided one-third interest in the property on the basis that section 881(a)(7) did not apply on the facts sub judice (or, if it did, its application infracted his constitutional rights). In a separate claim, Peter's brother and sister invoked section 881(a)(7)'s "innocent owner" exception vis-a-vis their aggregate two-thirds interest in the property.

On May 13, 1991, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the United States regarding Peter Beane's interest. Even before this judgment was obtained, the government entered into a stipulation with Joel and Carol Beane, dismissing its claims against their combined interest in the property. Not satisfied with this vindication of their innocence and the concomitant restoration of their equity, Joel and Carol Beane sought reimbursement of the fees and costs they had incurred in connection with the forfeiture action. The district court rejected their EAJA claim. United States v. One Parcel of Real Property, Etc. (Great Harbor Neck, New Shoreham, R.I.), 769 F.Supp. 445 (D.R.I.1991). These appeals ensued.

II. THE FIRST APPEAL (PETER BEANE)

We divide our discussion of the first appeal into three subparts. We begin by capsulizing the jurisprudence of Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. We thereafter offer an overview of civil in rem forfeiture proceedings under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(7). At that point,

Page 204

we turn to Peter Beane's asseverational array.

A. Summary Judgment Principles.

Summary judgment's role is "to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial." Garside, 895 F.2d at 50 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 advisory committee's note). Thus, summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

By invoking Rule 56, the moving party in effect declares that the evidence is insufficient to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). It then falls to the opposing party to limn a genuine disagreement as to some material fact. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir.1990). In this context, "genuine" means that the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of the nonmoving party, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510; "material" means that the fact is one "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id. On issues where the nonmovant bears the burden of proof, he must present definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57, 106 S.Ct. at 2514-15; see also Garside, 895 F.2d at 49 ("a mere promise to produce admissible evidence at trial does not suffice to thwart the summary judgment ax").

In the precincts patrolled by Rule 56, appellate review is plenary. Garside, 895 F.2d at 48. We, like the district court, "must view the entire record in the light most hospitable to the party opposing summary judgment, indulging all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Griggs- Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115 (1st Cir.1990). Nonetheless, the court of appeals is not tied to the district court's reasoning but may affirm the entry of summary judgment on any independently sufficient ground made manifest by the record. See United States v. One Lot of United States Currency ($68,000), 927 F.2d 30, 31 (1st Cir.1991); Garside, 895 F.2d at 48-49.

B. Section 881(a)(7) Forfeitures.

The framework for civil forfeiture proceedings brought pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a) is borrowed from customs law. See United States v. Parcels of Real Property, Etc. (1933 Commonwealth Ave.), 913 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1990); see also 21 U.S.C. § 881(d) (1982 & Supp.1988) (mandating cross-reference); 19 U.S.C. § 1615 (1988) (codifying customs law forfeiture provisions). Under these rules, the government must initially demonstrate probable cause to believe "that the property had the required nexus to a specified illegal purpose." $68,000, 927 F.2d at 32; see also United States v. Parcel of Land, Etc. (28 Emery St.), 914 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1990); United States v. $250,000 in United States Currency, 808 F.2d 895, 897 (1st Cir.1987). In this setting, probable cause means "a 'reasonable ground for belief ... supported by less than prima facie proof but more than mere suspicion' that the property is subject to forfeiture." 28 Emery St., 914 F.2d at 3 (quoting $250,000, 808 F.2d at 897). Once probable cause is shown, the burden shifts to those individuals wishing to assert claims to the property. To prevail, such claimants must prove by a preponderance of the evidence either "that the property was not used in violation of the statute or that it was so used without the owners' knowledge or consent." 28 Emery St., 914 F.2d at 3.

C. Analysis.

Peter Beane contends that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for three reasons: (1) section 881(a)(7) does not allow the forfeiture of property used to grow marijuana for personal use; (2) a title dispute regarding ownership of the estate

Page 205

foreclosed summary judgment because a trial was necessary to resolve the dispute and adjudicate Peter Beane's actual ownership status; and (3) the forfeiture violated constitutional strictures prohibiting disproportionate punishment. We turn, then, to these contentions.

1. Personal Use. Peter Beane's first asseveration is that section 881(a)(7) does not authorize a forfeiture of property based on the cultivation of marijuana exclusively for personal use; and that, since a dispute existed as to why he grew marijuana--he asserts that it was for his own, admittedly copious, consumption--summary judgment was premature. We think this claim is more smoke than substance.

The statutory scheme is precise to the point of pedantry. By its express terms, section 881(a)(7) sanctions forfeiture of real property used "to commit ... a violation of this subchapter punishable by more than one year's imprisonment." The subchapter in question makes it unlawful "to manufacture ... a controlled substance." 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (1982). As employed in the statute, the term "manufacture" includes "production," 21 U.S.C. § 802(15) (Supp.1988), and the term "production" includes the "planting, cultivation, growing, or harvesting of a controlled substance." Id. at § 802(22). The pertinent authority also designates marijuana as a...

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    ...in future cases, as nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel does not apply against the United States. United States v. Plat 20, Lot 17, 960 F.2d 200, 211 (1st Cir.1992) (citing United States v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154, 159-63, 104 S.Ct. 568, 78 L.Ed.2d 379 I am compelled to address one other ......
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    ...U.S. 1030, 113 S.Ct. 1845, 123 L.Ed.2d 470 (1993); United States v. One Parcel of Real Property (Great Harbor Neck, New Shoreham, R.I.), 960 F.2d 200, 204 (1st Cir.1992); Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115-16 (1st Cir.1990); Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Page 428 Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d ......
  • Rosado De Velez v. Zayas, No. CIV. 02-1777(SEC).
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    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • July 26, 2004
    ...evidence to permit a reasonable trier of fact to resolve the issue in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. One Parcel of Real Prop., 960 F.2d 200, 204 (1st Cir.1992); see also Boston Athletic Assn. v. Sullivan, 867 F.2d 22, 24 (1st Cir.1989); Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, 896 F.2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
457 cases
  • AMIRA-JABBAR v. TRAVEL Serv. INC., Civil No. 08-2408 (JA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • September 10, 2010
    ...703 (1st Cir.1993) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; United States v. One Parcel of Real Prop., 960 F.2d 200, 204 (1st Cir.1992)). “In this context, ‘genuine’ means that the evidence about the fact is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the poin......
  • McIntyre v. U.S., Civil Action No. 01-CV-10408-RCL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • September 5, 2006
    ...in future cases, as nonmutual offensive collateral estoppel does not apply against the United States. United States v. Plat 20, Lot 17, 960 F.2d 200, 211 (1st Cir.1992) (citing United States v. Mendoza, 464 U.S. 154, 159-63, 104 S.Ct. 568, 78 L.Ed.2d 379 I am compelled to address one other ......
  • Smith v. F.W. Morse & Co., Inc., No. 95-1556
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • November 6, 1995
    ...U.S. 1030, 113 S.Ct. 1845, 123 L.Ed.2d 470 (1993); United States v. One Parcel of Real Property (Great Harbor Neck, New Shoreham, R.I.), 960 F.2d 200, 204 (1st Cir.1992); Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 115-16 (1st Cir.1990); Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Page 428 Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d ......
  • Rosado De Velez v. Zayas, No. CIV. 02-1777(SEC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • July 26, 2004
    ...evidence to permit a reasonable trier of fact to resolve the issue in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. One Parcel of Real Prop., 960 F.2d 200, 204 (1st Cir.1992); see also Boston Athletic Assn. v. Sullivan, 867 F.2d 22, 24 (1st Cir.1989); Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, 896 F.2......
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