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United States v. 8136 S. Dobson St.

September 24, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

8136 S. DOBSON STREET, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS, RODNEY ANDERSON, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

No. 91 C 6673 George W. Lindberg, Judge.

Before EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

MANION, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 30, 1997

DECIDED SEPTEMBER 24, 1997

Rodney Anderson appeals from the district court's denial of his motion for relief from forfeiture judgments against property he claims to own. Because Anderson was not a party, and thus lacked standing to file for such relief, and because he was not entitled to the relief in any event, we affirm the district court.

I.

Rodney Anderson conspired to manufacture and distribute phencyclidine. As a result of this activity, he was indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced. We affirmed his conviction and 262-month sentence in an earlier decision, United States v. Hubbard, 22 F.3d 1410 (7th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1095 (1995). Shortly after Anderson was indicted, the United States Attorney's Office filed a civil forfeiture complaint against three parcels of real property and twelve vehicles which the complaint alleged were either proceeds of or facilities used in the furtherance of Anderson's narcotics trafficking.

On behalf of several of Anderson's close relatives, Anderson's attorney, Chester Slaughter, filed verified claims to the three real properties, located in Chicago, and two of the three vehicles that had been located and seized by the government; he filed no claims on behalf of Anderson. Specifically, Rodney's mother Lorraine Anderson and his brother Willie Anderson filed a claim to property at 8136 South Dobson. Lorraine also filed a claim to the property at 13904 Tracy and a 1984 Ford tow truck. Rodney's wife Valarie Anderson filed a claim to 1633 E. 91st Street. Brenda Anderson, Rodney's sister, filed a claim to a 1989 Volvo. No claim was filed on a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. Another car was claimed by GMAC. To date, the government has not located the other eight vehicles, nor has anyone ever filed a claim on them.

At the time he filed the claims, Slaughter represented that he was acting as counsel for claimants Lorraine, Willie, Brenda, and Valarie Anderson (collectively the "Anderson claimants"). He also notarized the signatures of the various Anderson claimants. (Apparently, these signatures were not those of the claimants and evidence suggests they were signed either by Slaughter or someone working with him.) Although he entered an appearance on behalf of Rodney Anderson in the civil forfeiture action, Slaughter filed no claims on his behalf. Slaughter then represented Rodney Anderson throughout his criminal trial. Nothing much happened with the forfeiture action until after Rodney Anderson was convicted in March 1992. Soon after, the government filed a motion for default judgment and a decree of forfeiture against the Camaro, on which no one had filed a claim. Subsequently, the court entered the default judgment against the car.

In June 1992, following the default judgment on the Camaro, the Anderson claimants released Slaughter as counsel. (In an affidavit, Rodney Anderson claims he released Slaughter sometime before June 1992, when he failed to file proper motions and notify him about the status of "[my] and my family's properties.") Through new counsel, Thomas Royce, "the claimants" filed a motion to vacate the default judgment on the Camaro, even though none of them had ever filed a claim on the car. The district court refused to vacate the judgment and decree of forfeiture after none of the Anderson claimants filed any pleadings beyond the initial motion filed by Royce.

In May 1994, the government filed a motion for default judgment and a decree of forfeiture against the tow truck. Lorraine Anderson, on whose behalf Slaughter had filed a claim to the truck, had died and no one had filed a claim as her heir. The district court granted the government's motion. In June 1994, despite never having filed a claim to it, Rodney Anderson filed a pro se motion to vacate the default judgment against the truck. One month later an unnamed claimant filed a similar motion through attorney George Pappas. The district court denied both motions, as well as another motion filed by Pappas to vacate the order denying the motions to vacate.

Also in May 1994, the government moved for summary judgment against the real property at 13904 Tracy. The court entered summary judgment for the government, rejecting a response brief filed by Brenda Anderson as procedurally and substantively deficient. Brenda Anderson's brief, in which she claimed to be the "heir [of Lorraine Anderson] and party-in-possession," was filed seven weeks late and was not accompanied by any local rule 12(N) statement.

The government also filed a motion for summary judgment against the 1633 East 91st Street property. The motion and accompanying exhibits indicate that Valarie was the sole claimant of the property; that the property was in fact held in trust for beneficiary Rodney Anderson; that a beneficiary of such a trust is considered by law to be the true owner; that Valarie lacked standing to assert an interest in the property; and that Rodney Anderson had never filed a claim to the property. Valarie Anderson failed to file any response brief opposing summary judgment or any local rule 12(N) statement. *fn1 Accordingly, the district court ...


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