May 15, 2015
State of Alabama
Eric Deandre Hall et al
Opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in
the advanced sheet of the Southern Reporter.
from Jefferson Circuit Court. (CV-11-2129).
Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Donaldson,
State of Alabama appeals from a judgment entered by the
Jefferson Circuit Court (" the trial court" ) in
favor of Eric Deandre Hall, Jamison Brandon Gaston-Jones,
Antonio Montrel Jenkins, and Demetrius Harris (" the
claimants" ) to the extent that the trial court ordered
the State to pay prejudgment interest on $16,038 of United
States currency (" the currency" ) that the State
had attempted to subject to forfeiture. We reverse.
the second time this case has been before this court. See
Hall v. State, 150 So.3d 771 (Ala.Civ.App. 2014). In
Hall, this court noted the following procedural history:
" On November 4, 2011, the State of Alabama filed a
complaint seeking the forfeiture of the currency. The
claimants were served on January 26, 2012. After a November
15, 2012, trial, the trial court entered a judgment on
January 8, 2013, condemning and ordering the forfeiture of
the currency. On January 30, 2013, the claimants moved the
trial court to alter, amend, or vacate its judgment; that
motion was denied by operation of law on April 30, 2013. See
Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P. On June 7, 2013, the claimants
filed their notice of appeal."
150 So.3d at 772.
court reversed the trial court's judgment, reasoning:
" Section 20-2-93(c), Ala. Code 1975, provides that
forfeiture proceedings 'shall be instituted
" Based on the facts and circumstances of the present
case, particularly the complete lack of evidence of the
reason for the seven-week delay in the institution of the
forfeiture proceedings, we conclude that the State failed to
institute the forfeiture proceedings promptly."
150 So.3d at 772-74. This court remanded the cause with
instructions to the trial court to enter a judgment in
accordance with this court's opinion. This court's
certificate of judgment was issued on March 26, 2014.
the case was remanded to the trial court, the claimants, on
April 1, 2014, filed a motion requesting that the trial court
enter an order returning the currency to them, along with
prejudgment interest " in order to fully compensate the
claimants for the taking of their property pursuant to the
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article
One, § 23 of the Alabama Constitution, 1901." On
April 10, 2014, the State filed a response in opposition to
the claimants' motion. The trial court held a hearing on
the claimants' motion on April 10, 2014. On April 15,
the claimants submitted additional authority in support of
their April 1, 2014, motion.
1, 2014, the trial court entered a judgment ordering the
State to return the currency to the claimants along with
" lawful pre-judgment interest pursuant to Alabama
Department of Transportation v. Williams, 984 So.2d
1092, 1097 (Ala. 2007), and Burgess Mining & Construction
Corp. v. Lees, 440 So.2d 321, 338 (Ala. 1983), from the
date of the seizure until the date of Final Judgment by the
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, [along with] lawful
post-judgment interest at the statutorily allowed rate from
the date of judgment until the property is returned." On
July 17, 2014, the State filed a " Motion for
Reconsideration."  That motion was denied by operation
of law on October 15, 2014. On November 19, 2014, the State
filed its notice of appeal to this court.
State asserts that " [t]he sole purpose of this appeal
is to determine whether the [trial c]ourt can award
[prejudgment] interest against the State ... in a forfeiture
proceeding when it is determined that the property subject to
the forfeiture was due to be returned to its owners based on
a violation of due process." Specifically, the State
argues that an award of prejudgment interest against the
State violates " the State's sovereign immunity
afforded by Ala. Const., art. I, § 14." The State
notes that, " [a]s a general rule, a governmental agency
is not liable for interest payable as damages for improperly
withheld funds unless so stipulated by a contract or by a
statute." State Highway Dep't v. Milton Constr.
Co., 586 So.2d 872, 876 (Ala. 1991). As the State points
out, Ala. Code 1975, § 20-2-93, the statute governing
forfeiture proceedings, does not provide for an award of
prejudgment interest and this case does not involve a
claimants argue, however, that the trial court properly
relied on our supreme court's decision in Alabama
Department of Transportation v. Williams, 984 So.2d
1092, 1097 (Ala. 2007). In Williams, the supreme court
stated: " The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to
the United States Constitution provides that 'private
property [shall not] be taken for public use without just
compensation.'" 984 So.2d at 1097. It further
specified " that interest must be included as a part of
'just compensation.'" 984 So.2d at 1098. The
claimants also argue that prejudgment interest must be
awarded pursuant to Alabama Const. 1901, Art. I, § 23,
which, like the Fifth Amendment, provides that " private
property shall not be taken for, or applied to public use,
unless just compensation be first made therefor."
State, however, cites United States v. 1461 W. 42nd
St., 251 F.3d 1329, 1338 (11th Cir. 2001), in which the
Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the government
was immune from a claim for prejudgment interest. The court
concluded that a seizure of property in violation of a
claimant's due-process rights was not equivalent to an
" unconstitutional taking of private property for public
use for which just compensation
is due." Id. See also AmeriSource Corp. v.
United States, 525 F.3d 1149, 1153 (Fed. Cir. 2008)
(" Property seized and retained pursuant to the police
power is not taken for a 'public use' in the context
of the Takings Clause." ); United States v. $7,990
in United States Currency, 170 F.3d 843, 845-46 (8th
Cir. 1999) (stating that " the forfeiture of contraband
is an exercise of the government's police power, not its
eminent domain power," and that " the
government's temporary possession of seized property that
is ultimately returned to a forfeiture claimant ... is not a
'taking' for Fifth Amendment purposes," and thus
does not require payment of prejudgment
in the present case, the seizure of the currency, although
subsequently overturned due to the failure of the State to
institute the forfeiture proceedings promptly, was not
equivalent to an " unconstitutional taking of private
property for public use for which just compensation is
due." 1461 West 42d St., 251 F.3d at 1338.
Therefore, we conclude that neither the Fifth Amendment to
the United States Constitution nor Art. I, § 23, Alabama
Constitution of 1901, provide an exception to the State's
sovereign immunity in this case.
on the foregoing, we conclude that the award of prejudgment
interest against the State was barred by sovereign immunity.
We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and
remand this cause for the entry of a judgment consistent with
P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.
" 'Although the Alabama Rules of Civil
Procedure do not talk of " motion[s] to
reconsider," this Court has consistently treated them
as [Rule] 59(e)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.,] motions " to
alter, amend, or vacate the judgment" when such
motions have been made pursuant to the guidelines for
post-trial motions as set out in Rule 59.'
McAlister v. Deatherage, 523 So.2d 387, 389 n. 1
(Ala. 1988). The proper filing of a Rule 59(e) motion
'suspend[s] the running of the time for filing a notice
of appeal.' Ala. R. App. P. 4(a)(3)."
Ex parte Troutman Sanders, LLP, 866 So.2d
547, 549 (Ala. 2003).
Although the Eleventh Circuit Court of
Appeals held that " the government may be liable for
pre-judgment interest to the extent that it has earned
interest on the seized res," 1461 West 42d St., 251 F.3d
at 1338, there is no evidence or argument presented
indicating that the State has earned interest on the currency
in this case.
We note that the federal forfeiture
statute was amended in 2001 to " to allow prospectively
the recovery of interest." Smith v. Principi,
281 F.3d 1384, 1388 n.2 (Fed. Cir. 2002); see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 2465(b)(1)(C) (providing for prejudgment interest).
Alabama's forfeiture statute, however, does not provide
for a recovery of prejudgment interest.