United States v. Pickle

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-19-2015
  • Case #: 12-16590
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Bucklo for the Court; Circuit Judges Berzon and Rawlinson; Dissent by Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

A lack of response to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions G(6) special interrogatories does not warrant a per se basis for striking a defendant’s claim.

The United States brought action against Byron Pickle for forfeiture of his property after an initial investigation of suspected marijuana trafficking, which was verified after searches revealed a large marijuana site with hundreds of marijuana plants, packaging equipment, firearms, and thousands of dollars in cash. The district court allowed a six month stay of the action based on the ongoing prosecution of Pickle’s two sons. The stay was extended based on stipulations on the continued prosecution of Pickle’s sons, and the anticipated invocation of the Fifth Amendment. In May 2011, the parties specified discovery topics, motions for filing deadlines, and a trial date. The district court submitted a Pretrial Scheduling Order, and declared the requested dates. On July 11, 2011, Pickle was served a request for special interrogatories, and under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions (“Rule”) G(6)(b), had twenty-one days to respond. Pickle did not respond timely, but moved to suppress the marijuana evidence, and dismiss the forfeiture proceedings since forfeiture claim was dependent on that evidence. Pickle also moved to stay the proceedings on the grounds that the discovery requests implicated his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. The district court granted the government’s motion that Pickle’s failure to respond to the interrogatories resulted in a lack of standing required to request a stay or contest the forfeiture claim, and entered a default judgment of forfeiture. Pickle appealed, and the Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in striking Pickle’s claim based on a per se basis, without giving him the opportunity to cure his lack of response. The panel also held that Pickle’s failure to respond would not have warranted the striking of his claim. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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