United States District Court, D. Arizona
A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff United States of
America’s motion for default judgment, against $50,
460.00 in United States Currency pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55
(b). (Doc. 10). No response has been filed. The Court will
grant the motion.
case is a civil action in rem to forfeit money
seized by law enforcement from Jamar Jackson. (Doc. 1). On
February 24, 2016, the Clerk of the Court entered default as
to the defendant property, Jackson, and all other persons or
entities who may claim an interest in the defendant property.
(Doc. 9). Plaintiff thereafter filed the pending motion for
default judgment. (Doc. 10). At no point has Jackson, or any
other entity or individual purporting to have an interest in
the defendant property, responded to this action.
entry of default, the factual allegations of the Complaint,
except those relating to the amount of damages, are taken as
true. Yoo v. Arnold, 615 Fed.Appx. 868, 870 (9th
Cir. 2015); Fair Housing of Marin. v. Combs, 285
F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002); Televideo Systems,
Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917 (9th Cir.
1987). The Court thus accepts as true the well-pleaded facts
contained in the Complaint. (Doc. 1).
Civ. P. 55(a) establishes that “[w]hen a party against
whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed
to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules . . .
the clerk shall enter the party’s default.” Once
a default has been entered, and a defendant fails to appear
to move to set aside the default, then the Court may enter a
default judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). The
“general rule” with respect to default judgments
is that they “are ordinarily disfavored, ” as
“[c]ases should be decided upon their merits whenever
reasonably possible.” Eitel v. McCool, 782
F.2d 1470, 1472 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Pena v. Sequros
La Comercial, S.A., 770 F.2d 811, 814 (9th Cir.
1985)). Nonetheless, “[g]ranting default judgment is
within the court’s discretion.” EEOC v.
Recession Proof United States LLC, No.
11-CV-01355-PHX-BSB, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171524, at *8 (D.
Ariz. Aug. 19, 2013).
moves the Court to exercise its discretion and enter default
judgment in its favor with respect to $50, 460.00 in United
States Currency. In exercising this discretion, the Court is
guided by consideration of the following factors: “(1)
the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits
of plaintiff’s substantive claim, (3) the sufficiency
of the complaint, (4) the sum of money at stake in the
action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material
facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect,
and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits.”
Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1471-72 (citation omitted). The
Court will address each of the applicable factors in turn.
Possible Prejudice to Plaintiff
first Eitel factor weighs in favor of granting
Plaintiff’s motion, as Plaintiff will be prejudiced if
default judgment is not entered in its favor. As noted
supra, at no point has Mr. Jackson-or any other
individual or entity purporting to have an interest in the
defendant property-responded to this action, and the record
reflects that Plaintiff gave proper notice. (Docs. 6, 7). If
the motion for default judgment is not granted, Plaintiff
“will likely be without other recourse for
recovery.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec.
Cans., 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1177 (C.D. Cal. 2002);
see also United States v. $86, 496.00 in United
States Currency, No. CV-07-1693-PHX-DGC, 2008 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 115052, at *4-5 (D. Ariz. July 1, 2008) (citation
Merits of Plaintiff’s Forfeiture Claims
Court next considers the merits of Plaintiff’s
substantive claim. “The procedures governing civil
forfeiture actions are set forth in various forfeiture
statutes, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000
(CAFRA), 18 U.S.C. § 983, the Supplemental Rules for
Admiralty or Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions
(“Supplemental Rules”) and this District
Court’s Local Rules, if any.” United States
v. $50, 000 in United States Currency, No.
CV-10-2004, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63448, at *3 (D. Ariz. June
16, 2011). Under CAFRA, “the burden of proof is on the
Government to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence,
that the property is subject to forfeiture.” 18 U.S.C.
§ 983(c)(1); United States v. $79, 010.00
in United States Currency, No. CV-10-0244-PHX-DGC, 2012
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48148, at *3 (D. Ariz. April 4, 2012);
see also United States v. $80, 180.00 in U.S.
Currency, 303 F.3d 1182, 1184 (9th Cir. 2002)
(“CAFRA transferred the burden of proof from the
claimant to the government and required the government to
establish forfeiture by a preponderance of the evidence
rather than by the lower probable cause standard[.]”).
instant matter, Plaintiff alleges that the defendant property
was intended to be furnished in exchange for a
“controlled substance in violation of Title II of the
Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801, et
seq., ” and that the defendant property
“constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to .
. . the movement of the proceeds of trafficking in controlled
substances . . . in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1952.” (Doc. 1 at 15). Thus, based on violations of
these two statutory provisions, the defendant property is
subject to forfeiture under to 18 U.S.C. § 181(a)(1)(A),
(C). Having reviewed Plaintiff’s Complaint-accepting
the well-pleaded facts contained therein as true-the Court
finds that Plaintiff has met its burden under CAFRA and
demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the
defendant property is subject to forfeiture.
Complaint establishes that Jamar Jackson was initially
approached by law enforcement at Philadelphia International
Airport after purchasing a one-way ticket to travel to
Phoenix the prior day. (Doc. 1 at 2-3). Plaintiff was
carrying $50, 460.000 in United States Currency on his
person. (Id. at 2). After being approached prior to
boarding his flight in Philadelphia, Jackson told law
enforcement that he had $30, 000 in his possession for the
purpose of buying a vehicle in Phoenix, Arizona.
(Id.). Jackson further claimed that his friend
“Charles, ” in Phoenix, had identified ...