US v. PROP. IDENT. AS $88,260.00 IN US CURRENCY, Civil Action No. 95-1163 (RMU).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtMark Rochon, Washington, D.C., for Defendant
Citation925 F. Supp. 838
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 95-1163 (RMU).
Decision Date15 May 1996
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. PROPERTY IDENTIFIED AS $88,260.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant.

925 F. Supp. 838

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
PROPERTY IDENTIFIED AS $88,260.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant.

Civil Action No. 95-1163 (RMU).

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

May 15, 1996.


925 F. Supp. 839

Robert E.L. Eaton, Jr., William R. Cowden, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, D.C., for Plaintiff.

Mark Rochon, Washington, D.C., for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

URBINA, District Judge.

Denying Claimant's Motion to Dismiss; Granting Plaintiff's Motion to Strike and Denying Claimant's Motion for the Return of the Defendant Property

After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record herein, the court concludes the following: claimant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Verified Complaint shall be denied as this court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action; Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the Answer of Sherrie Stewart (Claimant) shall be granted as claimant has not complied with the strict requirements of Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims; and claimant's motion for the return of the defendant-property shall be denied as the government did not unreasonably delay the initiation of the instant case.1 Finally, the court will not permit the untimely filing of the verified claim as the claimant did not adhere to the requirements of Rule C(6), and no mitigating factors are present that would justify noncompliance on the part of the claimant.

I. BACKGROUND

On June 19, 1995, plaintiff (United States) brought this in rem civil forfeiture action, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), against the defendant property, $88,260.00 in U.S. currency. The government alleges that the defendant-property was proceeds traceable to an exchange in violation of Title II of the Controlled Substances Act, in particular 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846.2 On the same day, the government issued a warrant of arrest in rem for defendant property. The claimant in this case has been represented by counsel since the incipiency of the present litigation. On June 24, 1995, claimant and her counsel were advised of the necessity of filling a verified claim pursuant to Supplemental Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules of Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. On July 6, 1995, claimant filed an answer to the government's complaint in rem. On July 26, 1995, the government filed a Motion to Strike the Answer of Sherrie Stewart basing its argument on the fact that claimant failed to file a verified claim as required by Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules of Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. On August 8, 1995, claimant, instead of seeking leave of court to file a verified claim as required by Rule C(6), responded with a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Verified Complaint asserting that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the present action.

Claimant failed to timely file a verified claim with this court as is required by Rule C(6). However, claimant attached an untimely filed verified claim to her Motion to Dismiss with a request that if the court did not grant her motion then, in the alternative, the court should allow the late filing. In her

925 F. Supp. 840
pleadings, counsel for claimant attempts to excuse his procedural failure by claiming lack of understanding of the applicable rules. However, the procedural prerequisites were outlined in the documents served upon counsel for claimant by the government. Finally, claimant never timely petitioned the court for an enlargement of time within which to file a verified claim

II. DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Claimant argues that 19 U.S.C. § 1610 governs this case and therefore, this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the government's verified complaint. The government, on the other hand, states that 28 U.S.C. § 1355 is the appropriate governing statute for this matter. Jurisdiction in forfeiture cases is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1355 which states, in pertinent part that,

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the states, of any action or proceeding for the recovery or enforcement of any fine, penalty, or forfeiture, pecuniary or otherwise ...

and

A forfeiture action or proceeding may be brought in —
(A) the district court for the district in which any of the acts or omissions giving rise to the forfeiture action occurred, or
(B) any other district where venue for the forfeiture action or proceeding is specifically provided for in section 1395 of this title or any other statute.

In the present case, the defendant property was seized under the authority of a search warrant issued by a district court that found probable cause to believe that claimant was involved in a narcotics conspiracy which operated throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, Georgia, as well as other jurisdictions. The government has claimed that the proceeds recovered are traceable at least in part, to that same multi-jurisdiction narcotics conspiracy. The government could therefore have proceeded against the defendant property in any of the jurisdictions wherein the conspiracy allegedly took place, including the District of Columbia.

Claimant contends that 19 U.S.C. § 1610 is the applicable statute in this action and therefore, "the U.S. Attorney's Office of the District of Columbia lacks the authority to seek the forfeiture of defendant property and that, as a consequence, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the government's complaint." Claimant's argument simply cannot be credited by the court. Congress clearly placed forfeiture actions of this type within the ambit of 28 U.S.C. § 1355 and has made this statute the proper governing authority. Therefore, as the defendant property falls within the ambit of the statute, subject matter jurisdiction is proper in this court.

B. Requirements for Filing a Verified Claim

At issue before the court is whether or not the claimant must file a verified claim of ownership with this court prior to filing an answer and, if so, may the answer be stricken by the court for failure to comply with this requirement. Claimant argues that such a filing is redundant since claimant has already claimed ownership at a prior administrative proceeding. The government, however, argues that a verified claim must first be filed with this court as required by the applicable rules.

The Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims specifically apply to the federal forfeiture proceedings at issue in this case pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(b) and 18 U.S.C. § 981(d). Rule C(6) of the Supplemental Rules, which governs actions in rem, requires the filing of a verified claim to the res subject to forfeiture prior to the filing of any answer to a forfeiture complaint.3 A verified claim in a forfeiture action

925 F. Supp. 841
in rem must be filed by the claimant in order for the claimant to acquire "statutory standing."4 Therefore, a claimant wishing to defend all or part of a defendant property in a civil forfeiture case must satisfy Supplemental Rule C(6)'s verified claim requirement.5

The Supplemental Rules C(3) and (6), 28 U.S.C.A., set out the procedural and timing requirements for filing a verified claim. Rule C(6) allows ten days from execution of process or within such additional time as may be allowed by the court. Rule C(3) provides for the issuance of an arrest warrant for the subject matter property. The process is considered executed once a warrant is served on the property.6

In this case, process was served on July 6, 1995. Claimant did not attempt to file a verified claim with this court until August 8, 1995, almost one month after the appropriate date. Courts generally bar claimants from proceeding if answers precede verified claims and have deemed it appropriate to strike an answer when no verified claim has been filed on a timely basis.7 Claimants in forfeiture proceedings are to strictly comply with Rule C(6) in presenting their claims to the court.8 "Courts have taken a severe stance against a claimant who has not properly perfected his claim in a forfeiture proceeding in a timely manner."9 Moreover, "verification is an essential and necessary element of any claim."10 Thus, it is proper for a court to strike the answer filed by a claimant when no verified claim has been timely filed.

However, as the decision to strike is within the discretion of the court, there are various factors that the court should consider in making such a determination. These factors include the time at which the claimant became aware of the seizure; whether the government encouraged the delay; the reasons proffered for the delay; whether the claimant has advised the court and the government of its interest in the defendant property before the claim deadline; whether the government would be prejudiced by allowing the late filing; the sufficiency of the answer in meeting the basic requirements of the

925 F. Supp. 842
verified claim; and whether the claimant timely petitioned for an enlargement of time.11

In the present case, the Rule C(6) ten day time limit lapsed without claimant taking any action to preserve the right...

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14 practice notes
  • United States v. All Assets Held At Bank Julius Baer & Co. (In re Rem), Civil Action No. 04–0798 (PLF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 12, 2013
    ...person's interest in the property in the manner set forth in the Supplemental Rules”); United States v. Prop. Identified as $88,260.00, 925 F.Supp. 838, 840–41 (D.D.C.1996) (explaining that compliance with the procedural and timing requirements of the Supplemental Rules for filing a verifie......
  • U.S. v. Funds from Prudential Securities, No. Civ.A. 00-3046 RMU.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • June 18, 2002
    ...to file an answer as required under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(4)(B). United States v. Property Identified as $88,260.00 in U.S. Currency, 925 F.Supp. 838, 841-842 (D.D.C.1996); Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7. Conceivably, this in rem proceeding could continue to prejudice the plaintiff indefinitely, burdening......
  • United States v. Funds from Prudential Securities, Civil Action No. 00-3046 (RMU) (D. D.C. 2002), Civil Action No. 00-3046 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • June 1, 2002
    ...to file an answer as required under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(4)(B). United States v. Property Identified as $88,260.00 in U.S. Currency, 925 F. Supp. 838, 841-842 (D.D.C. 1996); Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7. Conceivably, this in rem proceeding could continue to prejudice the plaintiff indefinitely, burdeni......
  • U.S. v. Funds from Prudential Securities, No. CIV.A.00-3046(RMU).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • January 29, 2004
    ...Cir.1992) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. SUPP. R. C(6)); see also United States v. Prop. Identified as $88,260.00 in United States Currency, 925 F.Supp. 838, 840-41 (D.D.C.1996) (noting that the claimant must file a verified claim in an in rem forfeiture action to acquire statutory standing); Uni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • United States v. All Assets Held At Bank Julius Baer & Co. (In re Rem), Civil Action No. 04–0798 (PLF).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 12, 2013
    ...person's interest in the property in the manner set forth in the Supplemental Rules”); United States v. Prop. Identified as $88,260.00, 925 F.Supp. 838, 840–41 (D.D.C.1996) (explaining that compliance with the procedural and timing requirements of the Supplemental Rules for filing a verifie......
  • U.S. v. Funds from Prudential Securities, No. Civ.A. 00-3046 RMU.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • June 18, 2002
    ...to file an answer as required under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(4)(B). United States v. Property Identified as $88,260.00 in U.S. Currency, 925 F.Supp. 838, 841-842 (D.D.C.1996); Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7. Conceivably, this in rem proceeding could continue to prejudice the plaintiff indefinitely, burdening......
  • United States v. Funds from Prudential Securities, Civil Action No. 00-3046 (RMU) (D. D.C. 2002), Civil Action No. 00-3046 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • June 1, 2002
    ...to file an answer as required under 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(4)(B). United States v. Property Identified as $88,260.00 in U.S. Currency, 925 F. Supp. 838, 841-842 (D.D.C. 1996); Pl.'s Opp'n at 6-7. Conceivably, this in rem proceeding could continue to prejudice the plaintiff indefinitely, burdeni......
  • U.S. v. Funds from Prudential Securities, No. CIV.A.00-3046(RMU).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • January 29, 2004
    ...Cir.1992) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. SUPP. R. C(6)); see also United States v. Prop. Identified as $88,260.00 in United States Currency, 925 F.Supp. 838, 840-41 (D.D.C.1996) (noting that the claimant must file a verified claim in an in rem forfeiture action to acquire statutory standing); Uni......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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