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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 Magnus-Stinson relied on an unpublished District Court opinion out of Maryland that included additional requirements a claimant must state, none of which Johnson did, so she dismissed the claim.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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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