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Kokosh v. $4657.00 U.S. Currency

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

May 22, 2017

Justin Alan Kokosh, Appellant,
v.
$4657.00 U.S. Currency, et al., Respondents.

         Washington County District Court File No. 82-CV-15-3701

          Rory Patrick Durkin, Giancola & Durkin, P.A., Anoka, Minnesota (for appellant).

          Peter Orput, Washington County Attorney, James Zuleger, Assistant County Attorney, Stillwater, Minnesota (for respondents).

          Considered and decided by Reyes, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Service of a demand for judicial determination of administrative forfeiture under Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3 (2016), requires that a complaint be served on the opposing party in accordance with Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 4 and electronic service is not effective absent consent by the opposing party.

          OPINION

          REYES, Judge.

         In this civil forfeiture appeal, appellant argues that the district court erred in dismissing his case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because (1) Minn. Stat. § 609.5314 does not expressly prohibit litigants from electronically serving a party, he was allowed to electronically serve his complaint on an opposing party and (2) he is entitled to equitable relief either under the doctrine of laches or under this court's "supervisory powers." We affirm.

         FACTS

         This case arises from the seizure and administrative forfeiture of $4, 675 and a 2000 Lincoln LS automobile (the property) by the Minnesota State Patrol (the state patrol). Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 2(b) (2016), the state patrol personally served appellant Justin Alan Kokosh with a copy of the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit regarding the property.

         On August 6, 2015, Kokosh, through his counsel, filed a complaint for judicial determination of forfeiture in Washington County District Court, challenging the forfeiture of the property. Kokosh's counsel attempted to electronically serve the Washington County Attorney's Office (the county) but encountered some technical difficulties. After various discussions with court staff, Kokosh's counsel was informed that the complaint was successfully filed and that the county would be served electronically as well. Believing that he had satisfied the requirements for service of process, Kokosh mailed a copy of the complaint to the county and the state patrol, but did not include an acknowledgement of service. The county never acknowledged service of Kokosh's complaint.

         On November 19, the county filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on Kokosh's failure to timely serve a complaint pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.05. In response, Kokosh argued that, while a demand for judicial determination must be filed in the form of a civil complaint, for the purposes of service, rule 5.01 controls. Kokosh also argued that the doctrine of laches should apply because the county unreasonably delayed in filing its motion to dismiss. Finally, Kokosh moved to amend his complaint under rule 4.07, to add the acknowledgment of service form required by rule 4.05, in the event that the district court found that his electronic service was ineffective.

         The district court denied the county's motion to dismiss and granted Kokosh leave to amend his complaint so that he could properly serve the county. Pursuant to the district court's order, Kokosh served an amended complaint on the county that included an acknowledgment of service. The county subsequently sought, and the district court granted, permission to file a motion for reconsideration regarding the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss.

         In denying the motion for reconsideration, the district court determined that Kokosh was entitled to relief under Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.02(d), which grants relief to a party who encounters technical difficulties under Minn. Gen. R. Pract. 14.01(c). In response, the county sent a letter to the district court requesting that the court re-examine its decision and dismiss this case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that service by mail was ineffective and electronic service of a complaint is not permitted under the ...


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