Free Order on Motion for Miscellaneous Relief - District Court of Arizona - Arizona


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Date: September 9, 2005
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State: Arizona
Category: District Court of Arizona
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6 l IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA
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9 United States of America, I No. CV 03-1504-PI-IX—ROS
l0 Plaintiff] ORDER I
ll vs. _ I
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One 2002 Cadillac Escalade 4x4;
13 Defendant, g
ii 22:1 s¢n2;s;3;?..£:*.rscssfS....
16 Claimants.
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19 Pending is Plaintiffs Motion for Award of Civil Fine Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 9S3(h)
20 (Doc. #18). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be denied.
21 A. Background
22 Defendant automobile was seized on February 4, 2003 on Interstate 10 near Flagstaff
23 Arizona, after a routine traffic stop. [Doc. #1 (Compl.) 1]]] 16-17]. The vehicle was occupied
24 by Eddie Ritchie and Kortney Malone, who stated that they had permission to use the vehicle
25 from Ritchie's uncle, Carl D. Anderson. During a search of the vehicle, law enforcement
26 officers found a hidden compartment and evidence that controlled substances had been
27 transported in the vehicle. [Q 1]]] 34-54]. _The registration for the vehicle indicated it was
28 registered to Claimant Carl D. Anderson. [Id, 1[ 56]. Claimant Anderson asserted that he is
Case 2:03-cv—01504-ROS Document 48 Filed O9/13/2005 Page 1 of 4

1 an innocent owner and lienholder of the vehicle, and that he had leased the vehicle to
2 Claimant Darryl Scott, with the condition that only Scott could operate the vehicle. [Q 1]
3 63].
4 Through counsel, in April 2003 Claimant Carl D. Anderson filed a Petition for
5 Remission of Forfeiture and Petition for Immediate Release of Seized Property with the Drug
6 Enforcement Administration. [Doc. #13 (Pl.'s SOF) 1122].
7 On August 5, 2003, Plaintiff filed a Complaint commencing this action in rem for
8 forfeiture of Defendant automobile pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §881(a) a11d 18 U.S.C.
9 §981(a)(1)(A), alleging in part that the automobile was the proceeds of trafficking in
10 controlled substances or was used to transport controlled substances. [Doc. #1 1]]] 1-4].
11 Claimant Anderson filed an answer on September 8, 2003 (Doc. #6). On August 6,
12 2003, Plaintiff filed its First Set of Non-Uniform Interrogatories and First Request for
13 Production of Doctunents and Request for Admissions. [Doc. #12, Ex. A]. In a letter dated
14 September 15, 2003, Plaintiff advised counsel for Claimant Anderson that Rule 36 of the
15 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that Claimant answer the request for admission
16 within 30 days of receipt of the request for admissions. [Doc. #14, Ex. A]. Anderson failed
` 17 to answer the request for admissions.
18 On March 23, 2004, Plaintiff filed its motion for summary judgment, to which
19 Claimant Anderson did not respond. [Doc. #12]. Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Entry of
20 Judgment on July 15, 2004. [Doc. #14]. Again, Anderson did not respond.
21 This Court granted Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment against Anderson in an
22 Order filed on October 19, 2004 (Doc. #15).
23 B. Plaintiffs motion
24 Plaintiff requests that the Court order a civil fine against Claimant Carl D. Anderson
25 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §983(h). Title 18 U.S.C. §983(h)(1)provides:
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1 (h) Civil fine
2 (1) In any civil forfeiture proceeding under a civil forfeiture statute in which
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claimant of an amount equal to 10 ercent of the value of the forfeited
4 but in no event shall the filiie be less than $250 or greater than
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6 Plaintiff contends that Anders0n’s claim for Defendant was frivolous such that a civil
7 line pursuant to §983(h) is appropriate, because "the only pleading tiled by cotmsel for
8 claimant in this proceeding," Claimant Anderson's Answer, was "insubstantial." Plaintiff
9 notes, correctly, that there are no published or unpublished court opinions interpreting,
10 discussing, or otherwise making note of this statute. Plaintiff explains that the section
ll replaced an earlier statutory requirement prior to enactment of the Civil Asset Forfeiture
12 Reform Act that a claimant to property subject to administrative forfeiture post a "bond" in
13 the amount of 10% of the value of the res, not to exceed $5,000.00. [Doc. #18, p. 4.]
14 Plaintiff further explains that the purpose of the bond requirement was to discourage the
15 tiling of f1·ivolous claims to seized assets, particularly insubstantial claims made with the
16 intent to obtain a compromise resolution "and clog District Court calendars if a settlement
17 were not achieved." [ld,]
18 Plaintiff argues that because Claimant Anderson has not responded to discovery
19 requests, produced any evidence in this action to support his theory ofthe case, or filed any
20 affirmative motions "the apparent purpose was to simply stall this action for as long as
21 possible" and to make the case settle for nuisance value. [lg, p.5.] Plaintiff concludes,
22 without citation to legal authority, that "[t]his lack of any evidence of effort in furtherance
23 of a legitimate purpose may be considered frivolous participation." [Q, p. 6.]
24 The Cotut disagrees. Claimant Anderson purchased the Defendant vehicle, which was
25 registered under his name. When it was confiscated for suspicion of drug trafficking, the
26 vehicle was occupied by Anderson's nephew and was allegedly leased to Darryl Scott.
27 Anderson filed a petition for remission and for immediate release ofthe vehicle prior to the
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1 filing of this action. The fact that Anderson ceased to appear in this action after filing his
2 Answer does not establish, as the statute requires, that Anderson's assertion of interest in the
3 vehicle was frivolous. The facts, particularly Anders0n's purchase of the vehicle, may be
4 viewed as indicating otherwise. Moreover, this Court's forfeiture order was based on facts
5 deemed admitted against Anderson because of his failure to respond to Plaintiffs requests
6 for admissions. On the basis of these facts, and without any case law or other authority
7 supporting Plaintiffs position, Plaintiffs Motion will be denied.
8 Accordingly,
I 9 IT IS ORDERED DENYING Plaintiffs Motion for Award of Civil Fine Pursuant
10 to 18 U.S.C. §983(h).
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12 DATED: % [ i , 2005.
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16 United States District Judge
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