United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM, JUDGE
United States of America (the "Government") seeks
forfeiture of a silver Jeep Rubicon, VIN lC4HJWFG5DL553884,
bearing Maryland Registration 3AZ9686 ("the Jeep")
seized from Ricardo Lawson. Lawson is the only individual who
sought to contest the forfeiture of the Jeep, but he is now
unopposed to the forfeiture action. Therefore, for the
reasons discussed below, the Government's Motion for
Default Judgment will be granted.
November 20, 203,, the Metropolttan Area Drug Task Force and
Homeland Security Investigations ("law
enforcement") took possession of a UPS box they
suspected contained narcotics. Horn Decl. ¶, ECF No. 1.
Law enforcement turned the UPS box over to a UPS delivery
person and began surveilling the box. Id. Law
enforcement observed the delivery of the UPS box to Ricardo
Lawson, who was operating the Jeep. Id. Lawson
placed the UPS box in the Jeep, drove it to 501 69th Street,
Seat Pleasant, Maryland, and dropped off the box.
Id. at ¶¶ k-1.
Subsequently, law enforcement seized the UPS box and found
ten pounds of marijuana inside. Id. at ¶ p. The
Jeep was seized on November 20, 2013, the same day Lawson
delivered the UPS box. Id. at ¶ q.
September 29, 2014, the Government filed a Verified Complaint
for Forfeiture against the Jeep for transporting a controlled
substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. S 881(a)(4). Comp I., ECF
No. 1. After filing a warrant for arrest against the Jeep on
September 30, 2014, Warrant for Arrest, ECF NO.2, the
Government filed a consent motion to stay the proceeding,,
Consent Mot., ECF No., , pursuant to 18
U.S.C. S 981(g)(1). In its motion, the Government argued that
because Ricardo Lawson intended to make a claim for the Jeep
and because the "criminal investigation into the facts
that gave rise to the seizure and filing of the civil
forfeiture" was still ongoing, the civil forfeiture
proceeding must be stayed because "the discovery process
in this case would interfere with the Government's
prosecution." Consent Mot. 1-2. I granted the stay on
November 18, 2014, and tolled the filing deadlines for
Ricardo Lawson during the pendency of the stay. Or., ECF
April 19, 2016, I lifted the stay after Lawson consented to
forfeiture of the Jeep. Mot. to Lift Stay, ECF No. 13; Order
Lifting Stay, ECF No. 14. Subsequently, the Government filed
for clerk's entry of default, ECF No. 15, which the clerk
granted on June 22, 2016, ECF No. 16. The Government's
Motion for Default Judgment as to the Jeep is now pending.
Mot. Default J., ECFNo117.
respect to default judgmenss in proceedings that are in rem
actions for forfeiture, both the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure and the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty
and Maritime Claims (Supp. R.) apply . . . ." United
States v. $85, 000.00 in U.S. Currency, Civil
No. WDQ-1O-0371, 2011 WL 1063295, at *1 (D. Md. March 21,
211)) (quoting United States v. Approx. $24, 546.25
in U.S. Currency, No. 1:09-cv-00284-OWW-SMS,
2009 WL 3486370, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2009)); see
also United States v. One 2003 Mercedes Benz CL500, No.
PWG-11-3571, 2013 WL 5530325, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 3, 2013).
The Supplemental Rules state the requiremenss for a
forfeiture in rem action arising from a federal
statute, while the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure state the
requiremenss for a default judgmen. Supp. R.
G; Fed. R. Civ. P. 55. I will address each
set of rules below.
Supplemental Rule G(4)
Rule G states that, in a forfeiture action arising in
rem from a federal statute, the Government must publish
notice of the forfeiture action "within a reasonable
time after filing the complaint or at a time the court
orders." Supp. R. G(4)(a). Though the notice may be
published "on an official internet government forfeiture
site for at least 30 consecutive days, " Supp. R.
G(4)(a)(iii)(B,, the notice must describe the property with
reasonable particulartty and state the time to file a claim
and to answer, Supp. R. G(4)(a)(ii). Finally, the Government
must also "send notice ... to any person who appears to
be a potential claimant on the facts known to the
government." Supp. R. G(4)(b)(i).
its Motion for Clerk's Entry of Default, the Government
includes a Declaration of Publication that states the notice
of a forfeiture action was published on October 3, 2014, four
days after the Complaint was filed. Decl. of Publication, ECF
No. 15-3. Further, the Government includes the affidavit of
Evan T. Shea, Assistant United States Attorney for the
District of Maryland, which states, "notice of the
pendency of this case was posted on an official government
internet site (www.forfeiture.gov) ... for thirty
(30) consecutive days." Shea Aff. ¶ 6, ECF No.
15-1; see also Advertisement Certification Report,
Mot. for Clerk's Entry of Default Ex. 2, ECF No. 15-3.
Additionally, the Government's Notice stated the
Jeep's vehicle identification number, the location and
date of the seizure, the deadline to file a claim for the
Jeep, and the deadline to file an Answer to the Complaint.
Notice of Forfeiture, Mot. for Clerk's Entry of Default
Ex. 2. Therefore, the Government's notice satisfies all
of Supp. R. G(4)(a)ss publication requirements.
because "Ricardo Lawson [was] the only person who
reasonably appear[ed] to be a potential claimant, " the
Government only mailed the Complaint and related documents to
him. Shea Aff. ¶¶ 4, 5. Therefore, the Government
gave notice "to any potential claimant on the facts
known to the government" pursuant to Supp. R. G(4)(b)
and this notice satisfies all of Supp. R. G(4)'s
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55
Fed.R.Civ.P. 55, "the Court cannot enter a default
judgment unless it 'determines that the unchallenged
factual allegations constitute a legitimate cause of
action''" One 2003 Mercedes Bern CL500,
2013 WL 5530325, at *2 (alterations omitted) (quoting
Agora Fin., LLC v. Samler,725 F.Supp.2d 491, 494
(D. Md. 2010)). Although "[t]he Court accepts as true
the well-pled facts in the plaintiffs complaint, ... it
remains for the Court to determine whether the unchallenged
factual allegations 'support a claim and the relief
sought."" $85, 000.00 in U.S. Currency,
2011 WL ...