United States of America v. $209,815 in United States Currency

Filing 48

ORDER by Judge Conti granting 21 Motion of United States to Compel Answers from Julio Figueroa to Special Interrogatories (sclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/30/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 9 10 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 13 $209,815 IN UNITED STATES CURRENCY, 14 Defendant. 15 16 JULIO FIGUEROA, 17 Claimant. 18 ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) Case No. C 14-0780 SC ORDER GRANTING MOTION OF THE UNITED STATES TO COMPEL ANSWERS FROM JULIO FIGUEROA TO SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES 19 20 I. INTRODUCTION 21 Now before the Court is Plaintiff United States of America's 22 ("Plaintiff") motion to compel answers from Julio Figueroa 23 ("Claimant") to special interrogatories. 24 motion is fully briefed, ECF Nos. 21, 29 ("Opp'n"), and 36 25 ("Reply"), and appropriate for resolution without oral argument, 26 Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). 27 /// 28 /// ECF No. 21 ("Mot."). The motion is GRANTED, as explained below. The 1 2 II. BACKGROUND This is a civil forfeiture case arising out of $209,815 in 3 United States currency ("the currency") seized from Claimant's 4 checked luggage at the San Francisco International Airport ("SFO") 5 on September 27, 2013. 6 precise factual circumstances underlying the interaction between 7 DEA Agents and the Claimant remain an issue of contention among the 8 parties, the Court need not resolve those issues on the present 9 motion. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 ECF No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 1. While the See ECF Nos. 18, 39, 42 (describing Claimant's pending motion to suppress and subsequent briefing). On February 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint for civil 12 forfeiture under 21 U.S.C. Section 983 arguing that the currency is 13 subject to forfeiture as "moneys . . . furnished or intended to be 14 furnished by [a] person in exchange for a controlled 15 substance . . . [,] proceeds traceable to such an exchange, [or] 16 money[] . . . used or intended to be used to facilitate a violation 17 of [Subchapter I, Chapter 13 of Title 21, United States Code]." 18 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). 19 and answer as required under the statute, and asserting "an 20 ownership and possessory interest in, and the right to exercise 21 dominion and control over[] all the defendant property." 22 Nos. 11 ("Claim"); 14 ("Answer"). 23 983(a)(4)(A), (B); Supp. R. G(5). 24 21 Claimant intervened, filing a verified claim See ECF See also 18 U.S.C. § Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff timely served on Claimant ten 25 special interrogatories pursuant to Supplemental Rule G(6) for 26 Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims requesting, among other 27 things, information related to Claimant's (1) circumstances of 28 acquiring the currency, (2)records relating to the currency, (3) 2 1 the source of the currency, (4) facts supporting Claimant's claims 2 of ownership and possessory interests in the currency, and (5) the 3 identity of persons having knowledge of Claimant's interest in the 4 currency. ECF No. 22 ("Kenney Decl.") Ex. A, Nos. 2-10. 5 objects to these interrogatories, arguing primarily that they seek 6 information beyond the scope of discovery permitted under 7 Supplemental Rule G(6)(a). 8 in his objections to Plaintiff's interrogatories that the requests 9 are (1) "overly broad, burdensome, and oppressive," and (2) seek Opp'n at 2-3. Claimant Claimant further argues United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 information in violation of Claimant's Fourth Amendment right 11 against unreasonable searches and seizures. 12 After raising these objections, Claimant's responses do little more 13 than restate Claimant's assertion of ownership and possession of 14 the currency in his verified claim. 15 compel further answers to nine of the special interrogatories, but 16 Claimant still refuses. Id. Kenney Decl. Ex. B. Now Plaintiff seeks to See Opp'n at 2-3. 17 18 III. DISCUSSION 19 The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorize party-initiated 20 discovery of any evidence that is relevant to any party's claims or 21 defenses. 22 26 is generally barred prior to the initial case management 23 conference. 24 particular context of forfeiture proceedings, Supplemental Rule 25 G(6) applies, which "supersedes the discovery 'moratorium' of Rule 26 26(d)," and permits the government to file "limited interrogatories 27 at any time after a claim is filed to gather information that bears 28 on the claimant's standing." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). However, discovery under Rule See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d)(1). Nevertheless, in the Advisory Committee Note to Subd. 6 of 3 1 Supp. R. G. 2 Circuit has stated that the rule "broadly allows the government to 3 collect information regarding the claimant's relationship to the 4 defendant property," and "contemplates that the government may seek 5 information beyond the claimant's identity and type of property 6 interest." 7 2012). United States v. $133,420, 672 F.3d 629, 642 (9th Cir. Here, Claimant argues that because the scope of Supplemental 8 9 While the scope of this rule is limited, the Ninth Rule G(6) is limited to information bearing on Claimant's standing, United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 and his responses to Plaintiff's special interrogatories and 11 verified claim are sufficient to establish his standing at this 12 stage, any further discovery necessarily exceeds the scope of the 13 Rule. 14 argument, and found interrogatory responses virtually identical to 15 those offered by counsel in this case insufficient. 16 ("[Claimant's] premise that the only information relevant to 17 standing is the claimant's identity and interest in the defendant 18 property is simply incorrect . . . ."). 19 Claimant's proffered narrow interpretation of Supplemental Rule 20 G(6) would render Supplemental Rule G(5)(a)(i)(B), which already 21 requires a verified claim to "identify the claimant and state the 22 claimant's interest in the property," superfluous. 23 Spencer Enters., Inc. v. United States, 345 F.3d 683, 691 (9th Cir. 24 2003)) (restating the "cardinal rule of statutory interpretation 25 that no provision should be construed to be entirely redundant."). 26 Furthermore, Claimant's position ignores the fact that "the 27 advisory committee's note to this rule contemplates that the 28 government may seek information beyond the claimant's identity and However, the Ninth Circuit has expressly rejected this 4 Id. at 642-43 Just as in $133,420, Id. (quoting Advisory Committee's Note (subsection 6)). 3 in accord with the other lower courts that have considered the 4 scope of Supplemental Rule G(6). 5 $307,970, 4:12-CV-136, 2013 WL 4095373, at *3 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 13, 6 2013) ("[P]ermissible interrogatories as to a claimant's 7 relationship to the defendant property may encompass more than just 8 the type of interest asserted in the property.") (citing $133,420, 9 at 642-43); United States v. $2,051,660, 07-cv-1338, 2008 WL 10 United States District Court type of property interest . . . ." 2 For the Northern District of California 1 8723566, at *1 (D. Kans. Sept. 29, 2008) ("[T]he addition of 11 Supplemental Rule G(6) phrase [sic] regarding 'claimant's identity 12 and relationship to the defendant property' must allow more than a 13 mere recitation of the information already required by Supplemental 14 Rule G(5)."). 15 Id. at 642 (citing Supp. R. G This interpretation is See, e.g., United States v. Furthermore, unlike in $133,420, here the Government has not 16 sought admissions or production of documents, which are outside the 17 scope of the Rule and might qualify as "overly broad, burdensome, 18 and oppressive." 19 Instead, the interrogatories in this case mirror those endorsed by 20 the Ninth Circuit in $133,420, which also sought information 21 relevant to (1) the nature of the Claimant's interest, and (2) the 22 means by which the Claimant's interest was acquired (including, 23 among other things, the dates, times, circumstances of each 24 transaction, persons from which the currency was obtained, reasons 25 why it was obtained, and names and contact information for 26 witnesses to transactions in which it was obtained). 27 In other words, because Plaintiff's interrogatories are all 28 "limited to the claimant's . . . relationship to the defendant 672 F.3d at 643 n.5; Kenney Decl. Ex. B. 5 Id. at 636. 1 property," they are neither outside the scope of the Rule nor 2 impermissibly broad. 3 See Supp. R. G(6)(a). For similar reasons, Claimant is incorrect that compelling 4 answers to interrogatories requires him to "conclusively prove" his 5 case at this stage. 6 burden of proof remains on Plaintiff to establish a connection 7 between the property and illegal drug trafficking, see 18 U.S.C. § 8 983(c)(1), the fact that some of Claimant's interrogatory responses 9 may help or hinder the Plaintiff's cause in carrying that burden Opp'n at 3. While Claimant is right that the United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 does not impermissibly shift the burden onto Claimant. 11 conclusion is further underscored by the Supplemental Rules' grant 12 of permission for special interrogatories at this stage in the 13 proceedings. 14 any time after the claim is filed and before discovery closes and 15 requiring answers be served within 21 days). 16 This Supp. R. G(6)(a), (b) (permitting interrogatories at Finally, Claimant's verified response to Plaintiff's 17 interrogatories raises an additional objection -- that Plaintiff's 18 interrogatories seek information "in violation of Claimant's Fourth 19 Amendment rights against an unreasonable search and seizure of his 20 property and his . . . right . . . to have any evidence obtained as 21 a result of such illegality suppressed in these proceedings and/or 22 any other proceeding." 23 id. at 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 (raising the same objection). 24 Nevertheless, Claimant's memorandum offers no analysis of this 25 contention. 26 determine, simply repetitive of his argument, raised in his pending 27 motion to suppress, ECF No. 18, that the evidence obtained from the 28 search of his baggage should be suppressed. Kinney Decl. Ex. B at 5; see also, e.g., Claimant's argument is, as best as the Court can 6 Id. To the extent 1 Claimant is asserting an additional objection based on the 2 interrogatories themselves, just as in $133,420, Claimant has 3 offered no "coherent support for those objections," and the Court 4 similarly rejects them.1 672 F.3d at 644. 5 6 IV. CONCLUSION The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff's motion should be 7 8 GRANTED. Nonetheless, the Court notes that Claimant has so far 9 declined to raise any Fifth Amendment objections to these United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 interrogatories. Because "courts must seek to accommodate the 11 defendant's right against self-incrimination in a civil forfeiture 12 proceeding," United States v. Thirteen (13) Mach. Guns, 689 F.2d 13 861, 864 (9th Cir. 1982), nothing in this order should be construed 14 to bar Claimant from raising such an objection. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the United States' Motion to 15 16 Compel Answers from Julio Figueroa to Special interrogatories is 17 GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Julio Figueroa shall serve 18 19 supplemental answers no later than fourteen (14) days from the date 20 of this order. 21 Dated: June 30, 2014 22 23 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 24 25 26 27 28 1 If, on the other hand, Claimant believes that ordering answers to interrogatories would constitute a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights independent of the search and seizure of the currency the Court takes no position on that issue. Should Claimant wish to raise such an objection they may do so in a motion for a protective order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d). 7

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