M.D.Tenn.: Laches applies to Rule 41(g) motions for return of property

The doctrine of laches applies to Rule 41(g) motions for return of property. The seizure of defendant’s property was 2003. Aside from other difficulties (like forfeiture), defendant just waited too long. United States v. Kimball, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136952 (M.D. Tenn. April 13, 2017):

Regardless of these infirmities, Defendant’s Rule 41(g) motion is properly denied based on the doctrine of laches. No statute of limitations governs motions for return of property under Rule 41(g). A motion under Rule 41(g) is treated as a civil equitable action when criminal proceedings have concluded. United States v. Dusenbery, 201 F.3d 763, 768 (6th Cir. 2000). In a proceeding in equity, laches may bar a claim

based upon the maxim that equity aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights. [Laches] is defined as neglect to assert a right or claim which, taken together with lapse of time and other circumstances causing prejudice to the adverse party, operates as bar in court of equity.

State of Kansas v. State of Colorado, 514 U.S. 673, 687, 115 S. Ct. 1733, 1742, 131 L. Ed. 2d 759 (1995) (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 875 (6th ed. 1990)). See also United States v Hanserd, No. 97-1600, 1998 WL 229168 at *2 (6th Cir. May 1, 1998) (“The defense of laches is available in response to a [Rule 41(g)] motion for the return of property.”) (citation omitted).

Denial of a claim based on laches requires: (1) lack of diligence by the party against whom the defense is asserted7 and (2) prejudice to the party asserting the defense. Obiukwu v. United States, 14 F. App’x 368 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 282, 81 S. Ct. 534, 5 L. Ed. 2d 551 (1961)). In applying laches, courts may look to analogous statute of limitations, which create a “presumption of laches.” Tandy Corp. v. Malone & Hyde, Inc. 769 F.2d 362, 365 (6th Cir. 1985) (internal citations omitted). This equitable principle “presumes” that an action is barred if not brought within the analogous period of limitations. Id. In civil actions against the United States, a six-year limitation period generally governs. See 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a). Although not a perfect analogy, this 6-year period is reasonably borrowed for Rule 41(g) motions.

This entry was posted in Rule 41(g) / Return of property. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.