Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. $389

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

October 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
$389, 820.00 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          EMILY C. MARKS, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an action for civil forfeiture of the Defendant property brought by the United States of America pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6).[1] Now pending before the Court are the Government's motion for summary judgment filed on June 12, 2019, (doc. 90), and Claimant Ruby Barton's motion for summary judgment filed June 13, 2019 (doc. 95). The Government filed a response in opposition to the Claimant's motion for summary judgment on July 8, 2019. (Doc. 97). For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the Government's motion for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED and the Claimant's motion for summary judgment is due to be DENIED.

         I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

         The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and § 1355. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1395 and 21 U.S.C. § 881(j).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment should be granted only if “there is no issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact by identifying those portions of “‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The movant may carry this burden “by demonstrating that the nonmoving party has failed to present sufficient evidence to support an essential element of the case.” Hornsby-Culpepper v. Ware, 906 F.3d 1302, 1311 (11th Cir. 2018) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)).

         The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and designate “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         “[A] court generally must view all evidence and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.” Fla. Int'l Univ. Bd. of Trs. v. Fla. Nat'l Univ., Inc., 830 F.3d 1242, 1252 (11th Cir. 2016). However, “conclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value.” Jefferson v. Sewon Am., Inc., 891 F.3d 911, 924-25 (11th Cir. 2018). If the record, taken as a whole, “could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, ” then there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the court must grant summary judgment. Hornsby-Culpepper, 906 F.3d at 1311 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., 475 U.S. at 587).

         B. Summary Judgment in Civil Forfeiture Cases

         This forfeiture proceeding is governed by the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (“CAFRA”).

         1. The Government's Burden

         Under CAFRA, the United States must prove “by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture, ” that is, that there is a “substantial connection between” the property and illegal drug activity. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(1) and (3). Whether the government has shown probable cause for forfeiture is a question of law. See United States v. Four Parcels of Real Property, 941 F.2d 1428, 1439 n.22 (11th Cir. 1991). Probable cause in this context is a reasonable ground for belief: something more than mere suspicion but less than prima facie proof. United States v. Cleckler, 270 F.3d 1331, 1334 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing United States v. $121, 100.00 in United States Currency, 999 F.2d 1503, 1506 (11th Cir. 1993)).

         Courts have been cautioned in civil forfeiture proceedings “not to dissect strands of evidence as discrete and disconnected occurrences.” United States v. $22, 991.00, More or Less, in United States Currency, 227 F.Supp.2d 1220, 1235-36 (S.D. Ala. 2002). The Court must instead evaluate the evidence, applying a common-sense view of the realities of normal life in the totality of the circumstances. See United States v. Carrell, 252 F.3d 1193, 1201 (11th Cir. 2001).

         Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6), the government is not required to demonstrate that the seized currency was connected with any particular drug transaction; instead, the government need only show that the money was “related to some illegal drug transaction.” United States v. $242, 484.00, 389 F.3d 1149, 1160 (11th Cir. 2004) (en banc). The Government may use evidence gathered after the filing of a complaint for forfeiture to meet its burden. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c)(2).

         2. The Claimant's Burden

         Once the Government has met its burden, the burden shifts to the Claimant to prove by a preponderance of evidence either a defense to the forfeiture or to prove that the property is not otherwise subject to forfeiture. 18 U.S.C. § 983(d)(1); United States v. $52, 000.00, More or Less, in United States Currency, 508 F.Supp.2d 1036, 1040 (S.D. Ala. 2007) (citing United States v. $21, 000.00 in United States Postal Money Orders, 298 F.Supp.2d 597, 601 (E.D. Mich. 2003)). “The claimant may meet this burden either by rebutting the government's evidence or by showing that the claimant is an innocent owner.”[2] Cleckler, 270 F.3d at 1334. If the Government carries its burden, and the Claimant fails to meet her burden, the property will be forfeited. See Id.

         III. BACKGROUND

         A. The May 13 and 14, 2016 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.