United States v. Guillen-Cervantes

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 03-28-2014
  • Case #: 12-10255
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judge Graber and Senior District Judge Dearie
  • Full Text Opinion

A criminal forfeiture judgment for conviction for conspiracy to transport and harbor illegal aliens pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 982 does not violate the Fifth Amendment because there is no constitutionally protected liberty or property interest being deprived because there is no implied right to contribution.

Ruperto Guillen-Cervantes ("Guillen-Cervantes") and Betty Castillo ("Castillo") were convicted of conspiring to transport and harbor illegal aliens in Tucson, Arizona. "[E]ach received a term of imprisonment and a forfeiture judgment [of] thirty seven months and $229,000 for Guillen-Cervantes, and thirty seven months and $290,000 for Castillo." Castillo made a Fifth Amendment challenge to the judgment "because she [was] unable to seek contribution from other members of the conspiracy." The Ninth Circuit held that there is no right to contribution either implied or as a matter of federal common law because "[t]he Constitution itself creates no property interests;[ ] such interests 'are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law.' A constitutionally cognizable property interest in a benefit requires more than an 'abstract need or desire' or a 'unilateral expectation of it'[ ]there must be 'a legitimate claim of entitlement.' . . . Requir[ing] an individual to demonstrate that an existing law, rule, or understanding makes the conferral of a benefit 'mandatory.'" The panel declined to "fashion a right to contribution as a matter of federal common law." Noting that "[i]nstances in which it is appropriate for courts to craft new rules of federal common law, however, are “few and restricted[.]' [G]enerally fall[ing] into two categories: where a federal rule of decision is 'necessary to protect uniquely federal interests,' and where Congress has empowered the federal courts to develop substantive law." Judgment AFFIRMED

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