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Judge’s dismissal of claim contesting forfeiture was on ‘unsound’ ground

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sent a man’s claim contesting forfeiture of nearly $200,000 found in his home during a police search back to the District Court for reconsideration. The judges ruled that the ground for dismissal given by the judge, as well as the alternative ground argued by the government, were “unsound.”

In United States of America v. $196,969.00 United States Currency; Rodney Johnson, 12-3414, the state turned over the money found in Rodney Johnson’s home to the federal government for forfeiture proceedings. The money would then be split between the state and federal government if the proceedings were successful.

The Justice Department filed the forfeiture suit, alleging the cash found was the proceeds of illegal drug activity and therefore subject to forfeiture. Johnson filed a claim contesting the matter, which said “as a legal occupant of the house I have rights of ownership to all items found within the house.”

District Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson ruled that Johnson’s claim did not comply fully with the requirements of Rule G(5)(a)(i), which requires the claim be signed under penalty of perjury; served on the government; and identify the specific property claimed, the claimant, and state his or her interest in the property. Magnus-Stinson relied on an unpublished District Court opinion out of Maryland that included additional requirements a claimant must state, none of which Johnson did, so she dismissed the claim. She did not address the issue of Article III standing.

“The government was free to respond with evidence that Johnson had no rights in the money but it could not simply demand that he prove, beyond the claim itself if compliant with Rule G(5), that he had standing – especially that he ‘prove’ Article III standing,” Judge Richard Posner wrote. “Imagine what it would do to federal litigation to require every plaintiff (or claimant in a forfeiture suit, who is like a plaintiff) not only to allege, but to prove, facts establishing the district court’s constitutional authority to decide his case. That is not required.”

He pointed out that Magnus-Stinson could have dismissed the claim before the government objected to it because it was either frivolous or obscure. This was Johnson’s second try at filing the claim, and it will be up to the District Court as to whether to give him a third try.

 

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  • Government Thieves
    So, if I save $100.00 cash per week, from my $500.00 per week paycheck, for 50 years, at which time, I will have saved $260,000.00, the government can raid my home and take my money, just by saying it is drug money! Shouldn't the government, have some kind of evidence of drugs, rather, than just saying we are the government and we will take anything you own, anytime we choose? Tyranny is upon us! If you don't know your rights, you don't have any!

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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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