United States v. Louis

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: 02-21-2012
  • Case #: 10-16727
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judge Graber and Senior District Judge L. Kaplan
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant, in a civil forfeiture suit, cannot use the Fifth Amendment "as both a sword and shield" by refusing to answer interrogatory discovery requests containing necessary elements to establish the defendant's Article III standing.

The United States government (U.S.) seized $133,420 from Louis' car after a traffic stop. The U.S. filed a civil forfeiture action for the seized cash. Louis filed a verified claim to the cash, but refused to answer an interrogatory discovery request that required Louis to explain how, why or where he obtained the cash. Louis did admit ownership of the cash in response to the interrogatory, however. The District Court ultimately granted summary judgment to the U.S. based on Louis' refusal to answer the interrogatory. Specifically, the court found Louis lacked Article III standing. Louis appealed. The Ninth Circuit held that Louis' interrogatory answer was not sufficient to established Article III standing, and as such the District Court did not err. The District Court properly struck the answer to the interrogatory because Louis was attempting to use the Fifth Amendment "as both a sword and shield." AFFIRMED.

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