United States v. Reckmeyer, Crim. No. 85-00010-A.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtCACHERIS
Citation631 F. Supp. 1191
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Christopher F. RECKMEYER, II, et al.
Docket NumberCrim. No. 85-00010-A.
Decision Date27 March 1986

631 F. Supp. 1191

UNITED STATES of America
v.
Christopher F. RECKMEYER, II, et al.

Crim. No. 85-00010-A.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia. Alexandria Division.

March 27, 1986.


631 F. Supp. 1192

Peter Van N. Lockwood, Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Kent Robinson, Asst. U.S. Atty., Alexandria, Va., for U.S.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the Petition of the law firm of Caplin & Drysdale Chartered ("Caplin & Drysdale") who seek a modification of the forfeiture order entered by the court on May 17, 1985, to permit payment of defendant Christopher Reckmeyer's attorneys' fees. This case presents a conflict between the forfeiture of drug related assets under the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act of 1984 and a defendant's right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. For the

631 F. Supp. 1193
reasons set forth below, the Petition is granted

I

The basic facts are not in dispute.

The law firm of Caplin & Drysdale began representing Christopher Reckmeyer in the summer of 1983, in connection with a grand jury investigation of drug trafficking activities in the Eastern District of Virginia which culminated in an indictment issued against Reckmeyer and twenty-five other individuals on January 15, 1985. As of December 31, 1984, Reckmeyer owed Caplin & Drysdale $26,444.97 for services rendered and costs incurred through that date.

On January 14, 1985, this court issued an Order pursuant to an ex parte application by the government which restrained the transfer of assets by Reckmeyer and others. On January 25, 1985, Christopher Reckmeyer surrendered. At his request, Caplin & Drysdale continued to represent him in his defense of the indictment. On March 14, 1985, Christopher Reckmeyer plead guilty to Count 2 — engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848. He also plead guilty to Counts 26 and 31, which charged violations of Federal tax laws.

On March 15, 1985, oral argument was held before Judge Bryan of this court on Reckmeyer's motion filed on March 7, 1985, for an order modifiying the restraining order of January 14, 1985, to exclude attorneys' fees from forfeiture. Judge Bryan denied this motion on March 15, 1985, on the ground that Reckmeyer had plead guilty to Count 2 on the previous day. Judge Bryan stated, however, that Caplin & Drysdale could, on its own behalf, raise the issue of forfeitability of attorneys' fees in the context of a third-party petition.

On May 17, 1985, Reckmeyer was sentenced to a period of incarceration, and a Forfeiture Order was entered listing virtually all assets possessed by Reckmeyer, including real estate, gems and $200,000 in United States currency. The Forfeiture Order specifically included:

29. All monies and funds restrained by January 14, 1985, restraining order entered in the above styled case, including but not limited to the approximately $25,000 held in escrow by Bernard S. Bailor a member of the law firm of Caplin & Drysdale and/or his agents.

Forfeiture Order dated 5/17/85.

In defending the charges against Reckmeyer, Caplin & Drysdale incurred the following expenses and time charges:

 a. Disbursement for the
                 retention of Stanley J. Reed of
                 Lerch, Early, Roseman &amp
                 Frankel to assist in
                 Reckmeyer's defense. Mr
                 Reed was retained in order to
                 comply with the requirements
                 of Canon 6, ABA Code of
                 Professional Responsibility
                 because Caplin & Drysdale was
                 not experienced in defense of
                 drug cases. (Exhibit G.) $ 46,975.54
                 b. Other disbursement in
                 connection with the defense
                 (duplicating, telephone
                 investigators, etc.) (Exhibit H). $ 14,313.95
                 c. Caplin & Drysdale attorney
                 time charges. (Exhibit H). $109,223.50
                 ___________
                 Total Expenses $170,512.99
                 ___________
                

In rendering these services to Reckmeyer, Caplin & Drysdale was a good faith provider of services for value. Caplin & Drysdale has not been paid for these charges because of the restraining and forfeiture orders which encompassed all of Christopher Reckmeyer's assets. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(2), Caplin & Drysdale filed its Petition to the court for a hearing to adjudicate the validity of their interest in the forfeited assets.

II

Caplin & Drysdale argues that the forfeiture statute was not intended to reach legitimate attorney's fees, and therefore they are entitled to be paid the fees and costs incurred in representing Christopher Reckmeyer. They further argue that any construction of the forfeiture statute which reaches legitimate attorney's fees would violate a criminal defendant's Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. The government argues that the attorneys only have standing to contest the forfeiture of $25,444.97

631 F. Supp. 1194
actually delivered to them by Reckmeyer but do not have standing to contest the balance owed by Reckmeyer. They further argue that the forfeiture statute can be plainly read to encompass attorney's fees and that the court should not order the government to pay the defendant's attorney of choice out of funds which rightly belong to the government under the relation-back principle of Section 853(c).

a. Standing

Under the Forfeiture Act, the disposition of third-party claims is governed by 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6). This section provides:

(6) If, after the hearing, the court determines that the petitioner has established by a preponderance of the evidence that—
(A) the petitioner has a legal right, title, or interest in the property, and such right, title, or interest renders the order of forfeiture invalid in whole or in part because the right, title, or interest was vested in the petitioner rather than the defendant or was superior to any right, title, or interest of the defendant at the time of the commission of the acts which gave rise to the forfeiture of the property under this section; or
(B) the petitioner is a bona fide purchaser for value of the right, title, or interest in the property and was at the time of purchase reasonably without cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture under this section;
the court shall amend the order of forfeiture in accordance with its determination.

The government argues that petitioners do not have standing to contest the Order of Forfeiture under Section 853(n)(6). The government position is that petitioners cannot claim either a superior right, title or interest "at the time of the commission of the acts which gave rise to the forfeiture," 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6)(A), or that they are "bona fide purchasers for value" who were "reasonably without cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture," 21 U.S.C. § 853(n)(6)(B).

The legislative history of the criminal forfeiture statute provides: "Third parties who assert claims to criminally forfeited property, which in essence are challenges to the validity of the order of forfeiture, are entitled to a judicial determination of their claim." S.Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. 208 (1983), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1984, pp. 3182, 3391. It is clear from the Senate Report that petitioners' claims fall within the scope of persons which Congress recognized as being "entitled to a judicial determination of their claim," even though they cannot specifically make a claim for relief under Section 853(n)(6). The court having found petitioners to be a good faith provider of services, it follows that they have a legal interest in the property forfeited. Their status is, at least, equal to that of a general creditor, and therefore the court finds that they do have standing to present their claims.1

b. Sixth Amendment

The court having found that the petitioners have standing, the question before the court is whether counsel fees and costs are exempt from forfeiture under the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act of 1984, ...

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19 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Monsanto, No. 436
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 29, 1988
    ...& Supp. IV 1986), and investigative or expert services? 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3006A(e) (1982 & Supp. IV 1986). See United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191, 1197 (E.D.Va.1986), aff'd sub nom. Harvey, 814 F.2d While Congress may wish to consider the pre-trial mini-trial that the majority opinio......
  • United States v. Nichols, No. 86 CR-0146J.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • March 2, 1987
    ...States v. Figueroa, 645 F.Supp. 453 (W.D.Pa.1986); United States v. Bassett, 632 F.Supp. 1308 (D.Md.1986); United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191 654 F. Supp. 1547 (E.D.Va.), 786 F.2d 1216 (4th Cir.), aff'd on other grounds, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. 177, 93 L.Ed.2d 113 (1......
  • Caplin Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, No. 87-1729
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1989
    ...States v. Rogers, 602 F.Supp. 1332 (Colo.1985); United States v. Badalamenti, 614 F.Supp. 194 (SDNY 1985); United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191, 1197 (ED Va.1986), aff'd on other grounds sub nom. United States v. Harvey, 814 F.2d 905 (CA4 1987), rev'd sub nom. In re Forfeiture Heari......
  • U.S. v. Harvey, Nos. 86-5025
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • March 6, 1987
    ...right, those fees must be exempted. The court granted Caplin & Drysdale's motion to exempt its fees from forfeiture on March 27, 1986, 631 F.Supp. 1191. Unlike the court in Bassett, which found that the Government could not reach assets held by any third parties unless the transfer was a sh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
19 cases
  • U.S. v. Monsanto, No. 436
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 29, 1988
    ...& Supp. IV 1986), and investigative or expert services? 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3006A(e) (1982 & Supp. IV 1986). See United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191, 1197 (E.D.Va.1986), aff'd sub nom. Harvey, 814 F.2d While Congress may wish to consider the pre-trial mini-trial that the majority opinio......
  • United States v. Nichols, No. 86 CR-0146J.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • March 2, 1987
    ...States v. Figueroa, 645 F.Supp. 453 (W.D.Pa.1986); United States v. Bassett, 632 F.Supp. 1308 (D.Md.1986); United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191 654 F. Supp. 1547 (E.D.Va.), 786 F.2d 1216 (4th Cir.), aff'd on other grounds, cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. 177, 93 L.Ed.2d 113 (1......
  • Caplin Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, No. 87-1729
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1989
    ...States v. Rogers, 602 F.Supp. 1332 (Colo.1985); United States v. Badalamenti, 614 F.Supp. 194 (SDNY 1985); United States v. Reckmeyer, 631 F.Supp. 1191, 1197 (ED Va.1986), aff'd on other grounds sub nom. United States v. Harvey, 814 F.2d 905 (CA4 1987), rev'd sub nom. In re Forfeiture Heari......
  • U.S. v. Harvey, Nos. 86-5025
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • March 6, 1987
    ...right, those fees must be exempted. The court granted Caplin & Drysdale's motion to exempt its fees from forfeiture on March 27, 1986, 631 F.Supp. 1191. Unlike the court in Bassett, which found that the Government could not reach assets held by any third parties unless the transfer was a sh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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