Ordonez v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-29-2012
  • Case #: 09-56533
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Sammartino for the Court; Circuit Judges Kleinfeld and M. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Sovereign immunity bars a criminal defendant’s equitable claim for monetary damages under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g).

Following his conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute, Galo Alejandro Ordonez filed a pro se motion to recover his property seized by federal agents during his arrest under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g). The government returned an incomplete inventory of his belongings, as the remainder of his property presumably was lost or destroyed. Ordonez filed a pro se motion for summary judgment, and the district court construed the motion as an equitable claim for money damages from the government. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss, concluding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to award money damages under Rule 41(g), since the rule contains no waiver of the government’s sovereign immunity. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit found no “unequivocally expressed waiver of the government’s sovereign immunity that extends unambiguously to money damages in the text of Rule 41(g).” The Court reasoned that Rule 41(g) is limited only to the return of property and is silent as to any alternative relief. Bound by precedent, the Court concluded that “an award of money damages against the government under Rule 41(g) is barred by sovereign immunity.” AFFIRMED.

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