Claimant. The Government filed a lis pendens which was recorded on September 3, 1993 in the records of the Lehigh County Recorder of Deeds and the Lehigh County Prothonotary. On September 8, 1993 the warrant of arrest was served on the property. Notice of the Government's intent to forfeit the property was published in the Allentown Morning Call on September 15, 22, and 29, 1993.
The Government sent Francis Lancon a written notice of its intent to forfeit the property. Asserting an ownership interest in the property, Francis Lancon filed a verified claim and answer to the complaint on September 13, 1993. On November 23, 1993, Francis Lancon executed a deed purportedly conveying his interest to Claimant for one dollar.
In March and April 1994, Claimant contacted the United States Marshal's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to request a key to the property and to request that the Government pay some municipal tax and service bills due on the property. In response, the Government sent a letter on April 22, 1994 to Claimant advising her of the civil forfeiture action against the property and suggesting that she obtain counsel.
On July 13, 1994, Claimant's counsel sent a letter to the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania stating that she represented Claimant. In response, on July 18, 1994, the Government sent Claimant's counsel a copy of the lis pendens and of the public notices published in the Allentown Morning Call. On July 15, 1994, Claimant filed two verified claims wherein she claimed to be the owner of the property and also a lienholder. Claimant never filed an answer to the complaint.
On March 13, 1995, this court entered an order forfeiting the property to the Government in accordance with the signed Stipulation of Settlement and Consent Judgment between Francis Lancon and the Government. The Government sent a copy of that stipulation to Claimant's counsel.
On August 10, 1995, Claimant filed a pro se Motion for Return of Seized Property Pursuant to Rule 41(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Claimant alleges that she is the owner of the property because she obtained the deed to the property in a child support settlement in November of 1993. Claimant further asserts that Francis Lancon orally conveyed the property to her in 1989.
At the September 7, 1995 hearing
on the motion for summary judgment, the Government did not dispute Claimant's entitlement to payment of her $ 9,164.00 judgment lien on the property. The Government agreed that the proceeds of the sale of the property would go to the payment of this lien and the statutory interest accruing therefrom. Upon being informed by the Government that the property was under an agreement of sale, this court entered an order on September 21, 1995 permitting the sale of the property but stating that the balance of the proceeds, after payment of Claimant's lien and other costs, would be held in escrow as a substitute for the property pending the disposition of Claimant's claim.
The Government argues that its Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted on three grounds: (1) Claimant has failed to timely file a claim and answer as required by Supplemental Rule C(6); (2) the Government has established that there was probable cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture; and (3) Claimant does not have any defensible ownership interest in the property. (Gov't's Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at 5, 13, 15.) This court finds that Claimant has no standing to contest this forfeiture action because of her failure to conform to the procedural requirements of Supplemental Rule C(6) and her lack of ownership interest in the property. Therefore, it is unnecessary to address the Government's probable cause argument.
Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). All inferences must be drawn and all doubts resolved in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962); Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1010, 88 L. Ed. 2d 467, 106 S. Ct. 537 (1985).
A. Standing Requirements
A claimant must satisfy both statutory and constitutional standing requirements. United States v. Premises Known as 717 South Woodward St., Allentown, Pa., 2 F.3d 529, 535 n.3 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Statutory standing requires a claimant to comply with the procedures set forth by Supplemental Rule C(6). United States v. Contents of Accounts Nos. 3034504504 & 144-07143 at Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 971 F.2d 974, 984 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 985 (1993); see also U.S. v. Approximately 2,538.85 Shares of Stock Certificates of the Ponce Leones Baseball Club, Inc., 988 F.2d 1281, 1284 (1st Cir. 1993) ("If no claim is properly filed [pursuant to Rule C(6)], a putative claimant lacks standing to contest forfeiture of the property.") (citations omitted); United States v. A Single Story Double Wide Trailer, 727 F. Supp. 149, 152 (D. Del. 1989) ("Only by filing a verified claim, in accordance with C(6), can a claimant demonstrate that he has a sufficient interest in the seized item to satisfy standing requirements."); United States v. $ 288,914 in United States Currency, 722 F. Supp. 267, 270 (E.D. La. 1989) ("In order to have standing to challenge a forfeiture, a claimant must strictly comply with the pleading requirements of Supplemental Rule C(6).") (citation omitted). In order to attain standing under Article III to the Constitution, a claimant must "show an interest in the property sufficient to create a 'case or controversy.'" Contents of Accounts, 971 F.2d at 984.
B. Statutory Standing Requirements
As previously noted, the seizure of property under the civil forfeiture statute generally must conform to procedure provided by the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims. The procedure for claimants is set forth in Supplemental Rule C(6):
The claimant of property that is the subject of an action in rem shall file a claim within 10 days after process has been executed, or within such additional time as may be allowed by the court, and shall serve an answer within 20 days after the filing of the claim. The claim shall be verified on oath or solemn affirmation, and shall state the interest in the property by virtue of which the claimant demands its restitution and the right to defend the action.