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United States v. Approximately Sixty-Three Pit Bull-Type Dogs Seized From 2083 Rozar Goolsby Road, Eastman

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

May 18, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
APPROXIMATELY SIXTY-THREE PIT BULL-TYPE DOGS SEIZED FROM 2083 ROZAR GOOLSBY ROAD, EASTMAN, GEORGIA,

         Before the Court is the Government's Amended Motion for Default Judgment and for Final Order of Forfeiture. (Doc. No. 10.J[1] For the following reasons, the Government's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 23, 2018, the Government filed a Verified Complaint for forfeiture in rem against Sixty-Three Pit Bull-Type Dogs (the "Defendant Property"). (Doc. No. 1.)

         A notice of forfeiture was sent to James Lampkin; the Estate of Fred Lee Jones, care of Rosemary Kilpatrick; and Natacha Smith. (Cunningham Decl. 1 5.) Additionally, notice was posted on the Government's website, www.forfeiture.gov, on March 27, 2018. (Cunningham Decl. 5 3.) To date, no person has filed an answer to the Complaint or otherwise claimed the Defendant Property.

         The Clerk of the Court entered default against the Defendant Property and any potential claimants on May 3, 2018. (Doc. No. 7.) The Government now moves the Court to enter a default judgment and final order of forfeiture against the Defendant Property and any potential claimants. (Doc. No. 10.)

         The uncontested allegations of the Government's Verified Complaint establish that the Defendant Property was used in an animal fighting venture, and is therefore subject to forfeiture pursuant to the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2156(f). (Cunningham Decl., Doc. No. 6-1, 5 2.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         "Obtaining a default judgment is a two-step process: first, the plaintiff must seek an entry of default from the clerk of court; and second, after the clerk has made an entry of default, the plaintiff can seek a default judgment." U.S. v. Eleven Firearms, 2015 WL 4409664, at *1 (S.D. Ga. July 17, 2015).xxAn entry of default and subsequent entry of default judgment are appropriate when a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend." U.S. v. $11, 000.00 in U.S. Funds, 2009 WL 198013, at *2 (M.D. Ga. Jan. 27, 2009) (internal quotations omitted).

         Where - as here - the Government brings a civil forfeiture action in rem under a federal statute, it must comply with Supplemental Rules for Admiralty and Maritime Claims and Asset Forfeiture Actions Rule G. See Fed. R. Civ. P., Supp. R. G(1) ("This Rule governs a forfeiture action in rem arising from a federal statute.").

         Here, it appears the Government has complied with Supplemental Rule G. First, the Complaint complies with Supplemental Rule G(2) because (1) it was verified; (2) stated the grounds for subject matter jurisdiction and venue; (3) described the property with reasonable particularity; (4) stated the property's location; (5) identified the statute under which the forfeiture action was brought; and (6) stated sufficient facts to support a reasonable belief that the Government will be able to meet its burden of proof at trial.[2]

         Second, the Government complied with Supplemental Rule G(4)'s notice requirements. The Government sent a notice of forfeiture and a copy of the Verified Complaint to potential claimants James Lampkin; the Estate of Fred Lee Jones; and Natacha Smith. Fed. R. Civ. P., Supp. R. G(4)(b)(i), (iii) ("The government must send notice of the action and a copy of the complaint to any person who reasonably appears to be a potential claimant" and "notice must be sent by means reasonably calculated to reach the potential claimant."). Moreover, publication is not required because the Defendant Property is worth less than $1, 000.00 and the direct notice was sent to every potential claimant the Government could identify.

         Supplemental Rule G(5) gives any potential claimants thirty-five days to make a claim if notice is sent directly and sixty-days if notice is sent by publication. Here, because notice was sent directly and publication is not required, any potential claimant had thirty-five days from March 26, 2018, to make a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P., Supp. R. G(4)(a)(i). Because the time for making such a claim has expired, entering default judgment against all potential claimants to the Defendant Property is appropriate.

         III. CONCLUSION

         Upon due consideration, the Government's Amended Motion for Default Judgment and for Final Order of Forfeiture (doc. no. 10) is GRANTED. It is hereby ORDERED that:

1. The Defendant Property is hereby condemned and forfeited to the United States of America, and all right title, claim and interest to the Defendant Property by James Lampkin; the Estate of Fred Lee Jones; and Natacha Smith, their heirs, successors, and assigns and all ...

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