Republic Nat'l Bank of Miami v. United States

PETITIONER: Republic Nat'l Bank of Miami
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Safeway grocery store

DOCKET NO.: 91-767
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 506 US 80 (1992)
ARGUED: Oct 05, 1992
DECIDED: Dec 14, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Robert A. Long, Jr. - on behalf of the Respondent
Stanley A. Beiley - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Republic Nat'l Bank of Miami v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 05, 1992 in Republic Nat'l Bank of Miami v. United States

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in No. 91-767, Republic National Bank-of Miami v. United States.

Mr. Beiley, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Stanley A. Beiley:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case concerns Federal appellate jurisdiction.

The issue is can the United States, by executing on a favorable currency forfeiture judgment, divest a Federal appellate court of appellate jurisdiction to decide the merits of a timely filed appeal.

The Eleventh Circuit below held that the Government had this power, which holding is contrary to the majority of the circuit courts of appeals which have addressed this very issue.

It is the Government's position in this case that the Government can bring a civil forfeiture lawsuit, win the case at trial, and then prevent an appellate court from deciding the merits of that appeal by transferring the funds in dispute from the territorial jurisdiction of the trial.

Byron R. White:

I suppose, would its position also be that if pending the, pending the decision of the district court the property was sold and the proceeds were transferred to some other place the district court would lose jurisdiction too, I suppose?

Stanley A. Beiley:

I believe that would follow from the Government's position.

That's certainly not the position that we advocate before this Court.

The late Judge Vance in his dissent in the Eleventh Circuit's One Lear Jet case, which dissent is now the basis for the rule in the majority of the circuits, referred to the majority opinion which adopted the Government's arguments being made before this Court as follows, and I quote.

It offends fundamental principles of fairness, it represents a departure from common sense, and it is analytically flawed.

We believe Judge Vance's comments are correct.

It is the bank's position in this case that the Government should not have the power to defeat a Federal court's appellate jurisdiction by its unilateral act of levying on a forfeiture judgment.

We believe that when the Government or any party brings a lawsuit in Federal court that party, as the plaintiff, submits itself to the court's in personam jurisdiction regardless of the nature of the underlying action.

The bank further submits that the nature of the trial court proceeding, whether you call that proceeding in rem, quasi in rem, or in personam, should have no bearing on the issue of Federal appellate jurisdiction.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, this would be your view even in a classical admiralty action, Mr. Beiley, where everybody agrees it is a prototypical in rem action, nonetheless the Government there would submit itself to the personal jurisdiction of the court?

Stanley A. Beiley:

It's not only my position, Your Honor, but it has been adopted by this Court in several of the cases cited in our brief in a pure admiralty case, the Feckler case, the British transport case, and several prize cases where the Government has intervened in admiralty in rem cases and then objected to cross claims being filed against it.

And this Court had held that when the United States intervenes it takes the position of a private suitor for all purposes for which justice may be done.

William H. Rehnquist:

Well, is that the same thing though as an admiralty action say initiated by the Government?

Stanley A. Beiley:

Our position would be it would be the same, Your Honor, that the Government by initiating an action, as well as any plaintiff that initiates an action, submits itself to the court's in personam jurisdiction.

Notwithstanding sovereign immunity?

Stanley A. Beiley:

That is correct, Your Honor.

Sovereign immunity we believe would apply to suits against the Government, not to suits by the Government.

In your hypothetical, and Mr. Chief Justice, you asked about the Government initiating a lawsuit.

So that our position is--

Well, Mr. Beiley, what about cases like the Brig Ann where the court has stated that the release of the res ends jurisdiction?

Stanley A. Beiley:

--Justice O'Connor, first, we don't believe that ancient admiralty cases should be relevant to an issue of Federal appellate jurisdiction in a currency forfeiture suit.

But even under those old admiralty cases, our reading of the cases, I recognize the Government has a contrary interpretation.

Our reading of the traditional old admiralty cases, which we don't believe to be relevant, is that jurisdiction vests upon the initial seizure and that the continuous seizure or the continuous court control of the res, even in the old admiralty cases, is only required in two circumstances, none of which apply here.