Submitted: September 21, 2017
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
COLLOTON, BENTON, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Express, Inc. (LNG) appeals the district
court's order striking its verified claim in this
civil forfeiture proceeding. We conclude that LNG's
verified claim is materially indistinguishable from the claim
a panel of our court found inadequate in United States v.
$154, 853.00 in U.S. Currency, 744 F.3d 559 (8th Cir.
2014). We therefore affirm.
September 2014, an Arkansas State Police officer initiated a
traffic stop of a tractor trailer in Faulkner County,
Arkansas. After the driver consented to a search of the
truck, the officer found and seized two boxes containing a
total of $579, 475.00 in U.S. currency. The truck's
drivers both disclaimed any knowledge of or interest in the
the currency to be "drug money, " the government
filed a verified complaint in the district court, seeking
forfeiture of the currency under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6).
LNG filed a timely verified claim, averring in relevant part:
1. [LNG] has a claim to, interest in, and right to the
property seized herein, specifically the defendant-in-rem,
$579, 475.00 in United States Currency, and demands its
restitution and return.
2. The interest of [LNG] in the defendant-in-rem by virtue of
which [LNG] demands its restitution, its return, and the
right to defend the action is all of the right, title, and
interest in said defendant-in-rem as the owner thereof.
government moved to strike LNG's verified claim,
presenting its motion as a motion for judgment on the
pleadings. The government argued that it was entitled
to judgment on the pleadings because LNG's verified claim
failed to meet the threshold pleading requirement set forth
in Rule G(5) of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or
Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions. According to
the government, the verified claim did not identify LNG's
interest in the currency with sufficient specificity. The
district court granted the government's motion over
LNG's opposition, and struck LNG's verified claim,
finding it insufficient to meet Supplemental Rule G(5)'s
threshold pleading requirement. In the absence of any other
claims, the district court thereafter entered a decree of
forfeiture, vesting title to the currency in the government.
the government initiates a civil forfeiture proceeding, a
"person who asserts an interest in the defendant
property may contest the forfeiture by filing a claim in the
court where the action is pending." Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp.
R. G(5)(a)(i). "The claim must: (A) identify the
specific property claimed; (B) identify the claimant and
state the claimant's interest in the property; (C) be
signed by the claimant under penalty of perjury; and (D) be
served on the government attorney . . . ." Id.
"At any time before trial, the government may move to
strike a claim . . . for failing to comply with Rule G(5) . .
. ." Fed.R.Civ.P. Supp. R. G(8)(c)(i).
review the district court's striking of a claim in a
civil forfeiture proceeding for an abuse of discretion.
$154, 853.00, 744 F.3d at 562. "An abuse of
discretion occurs when the district court rests its
conclusions on clearly erroneous factual findings or
erroneous legal conclusions." Id. (quoting
Lankford v. Sherman, 451 F.3d 496, 503-04 (8th Cir.
2006)). When ruling on a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, the district court must accept the claimant's
factual allegations as true and construe all reasonable
inferences in the claimant's favor. Saterdalen v.
Spencer, 725 F.3d 838, 841 (8th Cir. 2013). The district
court generally may not consider materials outside the
pleadings, but it may consider some public records, materials
that do not contradict the complaint, or materials that are
"necessarily embraced by the pleadings."
Id. (quoting Noble Sys. Corp. v. Alorica Cent.,
LLC, 543 F.3d 978, 982 (8th Cir. 2008)).
government argues that our previous panel opinion in
United States v. $154, 853.00 in U.S. Currency is
dispositive in this appeal. In $154, 853.00, the
claimant initially filed a verified claim "claim[ing]
the seized U.S. Currency in the amount of $154, 853, more or
less, " and attesting that he "ha[d] an ownership
and possessory interest in the seized U.S. currency."
744 F.3d at 561. The government moved to strike the
claimant's initial verified claim for failure to
sufficiently state his interest in the currency as required
by Supplemental Rule G(5). Id. The district court
granted the government's first motion to strike, but
granted the claimant leave to file an amended verified claim.
Id. at 562. In his amended verified claim, the
claimant averred, in relevant part, that he "ha[d] an
ownership and possessory interest in the seized U.S.
Currency. $4, 500 more or less of the U.S. Currency was found
on Claimant's person and earned by Claimant through his
employment." Id. The district court also struck
the amended verified claim. Id.
$154, 853.00, we concluded that the district court
had not abused its discretion by striking the claimant's
first verified claim, reiterating this court's
requirement that "[t]he claimant's interest in the
property must be stated with some level of specificity."
Id. (citing United States v. Three Parcels of
Real Prop., 43 F.3d 388, 391-93 (8th Cir. 1994) and
United States v. $104, 674.00, 17 F.3d 267, 268-69
(8th Cir. 1994)). More particularly, we described the
claimant's assertion of "an ownership and possessory
interest in the seized U.S. currency" as "only a
general assertion of his interest" in the funds, which
provided "no level of specificity" and "did
not sufficiently identify his interest." Id. at
563. We then held that the claimant's amended verified
complaint had sufficiently stated a "colorable ownership
interest" in $4, 500 of the seized funds, in light of
its additional attestation that the claimant had earned that
portion of the funds "through his employment."
Id. at 564. This was because the claimant
"would certainly have an ownership interest in earned
income." Id. In light of the additional
averment that $4, ...