In Rem Cases
This list of cases is part of Dan's Interesting Bits of Law.
Most litigation occurs between two or more parties — people, corporations, etc. to determine their legal rights and liabilities. Sometimes, a court may be asked to determine the ownership or other legal status of a thing (a piece of land, an object, an animal, etc.) without determining the liabilities and entitlements of the people involved such as the various people who may claim to be the owner. A court may do this by exercising "in rem jurisdiction". This can generate case names that are interesting and funny — like U.S. v. 2,507 Live Canary Winged Parakeets and A Quantity of Copies of Books v. Kansas.
In Rem Case Names
- U.S. v. One Tyrannosaurus Bataar Skeleton, No. 12 Civ. 4760 (PKC) (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (suit to prevent sale of a dinosaur skeleton exported from Mongolia to U.S. in violation of Mongolian law)
The government's forfeiture case is premised upon the claim that the Defendant Property was shipped into this country based upon customs import documents which falsely stated the value of the shipment and falsely identified the country of origin. It also contends that the Defendant Property was improperly removed — smuggled and stolen — from the nation of Mongolia and that it should be returned to them as part of their cultural heritage. The government's evidence in support of the warrant of arrest included a photograph of the nearly complete skeleton of a single dinosaur from head to tail mounted on upright supports. The skeleton was sold at auction for $1,052,500 but seized before delivery to the buyer.
- U.S. v. One Solid Gold Object In Form of A Rooster, 191 F.Supp. 198 (D. Nev. 1961)
Seizure of a gold statue from a casino in Sparks, Nevada. While U.S. currency was on the gold standard, it was illegal to possess solid gold objects over a certain size. An expert testified in the case that the rooster "was a threat to the American economy, and even to law and order." The rooster was acquitted by a jury in 1962 and returned to the casino, which sold him in 2013 for $234,000. Story: Why the US government once sued a Nevada casino over a 14-pound solid gold rooster
- U.S. v. One Lucite Ball Containing Lunar Material (One Moon Rock) and One Ten Inch by Fourteen Inch Wooden Plaque, 235 F. Supp. 2d 1367 (S.D. Fla. 2003) (forfeiture of items stolen in Honduras)
The moon rock was originally retrieved from the surface of the moon by astronauts on a NASA mission. In 1973, President Nixon, on behalf of the United States, made a gift of the moon rock and plaque to the government and people of the Republic of Honduras.
- U.S. v. Forty Barrels & Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, 241 U.S. 265 (1916)
It was alleged that the product was adulterated and misbranded. The allegation of adulteration was, in substance, that the product contained an added poisonous or added deleterious ingredient, caffeine which might render the product injurious to health.
- U.S. v. 11¼ Dozen Packages of Article Labeled in Part Mrs. Moffat's Shoo Fly Powders for Drunkenness, 40 F. Supp. 208 (W.D.N.Y. 1941) (seizure of toxic "health" products with false/misleading labels)
- U.S. v. 2,116 Boxes of Boned Beef, Weighing Approximately 154,121 Pounds, and 541 Boxes of Offal Weighing Approximately 17,732 Pounds, 726 F. 2d 1481 (10th Cir. 1984) (condemnation of adulterated beef)
- U.S. v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins, 520 F.3d 976 (9th Cir. 2008) (asset forfeiture case under the Shark Finning Prohibition Act of 2000)
- R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel, its engines, tackle apparel, appurtenances, cargo, etc., located within one (1) nautical mile of a point located at 41° 43' 32? North Latitude and 49° 56' 49? West Longitude, believed to be the R.M.S. Titanic, 286 F.3d 194 (2d Cir. 2002) (famous Titanic case discussing the rights that a salvor-in-possession has to objects he retrieves from a shipwreck on the ocean floor)
- U.S. v. 2,507 Live Canary Winged Parakeets, 689 F. Supp. 1106 (S.D. Fla. 1988) (forfeiture of birds imported in violation of Peruvian law)
- U.S. v. Article Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes More or Less, Each Containing One Pair of Clacker Balls, 413 F. Supp. 1281 (D. Wisconsin 1976) (seizure provisions of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act do not violate the Due Process Clause)
- Case of One 1985 Nissan, 300ZX, VIN: JN1C214SFX069854, 889 F.2d 1317 (4th Cir. 1989) (civil forfeiture action against the estate of a dead (alleged) drug dealer)
- U.S. v. 422 Casks of Wine, 26 U.S. 547 (1828) (technical procedural decision regarding federal courts' jurisdiction)
- U.S. v. Ninety-Five Barrels, More or Less, of Alleged Apple Cider Vinegar, 265 U.S. 438 (1924)
- U.S. v. One Ford Coupe Automobile, 272 U.S. 321 (1926) (during Prohibition, forfeiture of a car sought "on the ground that it was being used with intent to defraud the United States of the tax on distilled spirits found therein by depositing and concealing the liquor.")
- U.S. v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, 86 F.2d 737 (2d Cir. 1936) (seizure of a box of 120 vaginal pessaries (contraceptives), alleging violation of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibited "importing into the United States from any foreign country … any article whatever for the prevention of conception or for causing unlawful abortion.")
- U.S. v. One Book Entitled Ulysses, 72 F.2d 705 (2d Cir. 1934) (landmark ruling that James Joyce's novel was not obscene because it had sufficient literary merit to overcome obscenity laws)
- A Quantity of Copies of Books v. Kansas, 378 U.S. 205 (1964) (seizure of allegedly obscene materials is unconstitutional without prior hearing to determine obscenity)
- One 1958 Plymouth Sedan v. Pennsylvania, 380 U.S. 693 (1965) (exclusionary rule of evidence prevents forfeiture of material seized in cases where 4th Amendment was violated)
- A Book Named "John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" et al. v. Attorney General of Massachusetts, (obscenity case involving Fanny Hill)
- U.S. v. Thirty-Seven Photographs, 402 U.S. 363 (1971) (another case of seizure of allegedly obscene materials)
- U.S. v. 12 200-ft. Reels of 8MM Film, 413 U.S. 123 (1973) (another case of seizure of allegedly obscene materials)
- People v. $4,703.02 U.S. Currency, 227 Cal. App. 3d 1 (1991) (seizure case alleging the money was connected with or proceeds from an illegal drug transaction)
- U.S. v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency, 458 F. 3d 822 (8th Cir. 2006) (asset forfeiture case based on drug law)
- U.S. v. 127 Shares of Stock in Paradigm Mfg., Inc., 758 F. Supp. 581 (E.D. Cal. 1990) (former spouse and children alleged unpaid child support and sought to recover stocks allegedly purchased with the husband/father's proceeds from drug sales)
- U.S. v. 50 Acres of Land, 469 U.S. 24 (1984) (cost of replacement property for eminent domain purposes does not have to be calculated in its fair market value)
- U.S. v. Various Pieces of Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment, 649 F.2d 606 (8th Cir. 1981) (company caught selling equipment to Soviets claimed the long delay between seizure and forfeiture proceedings was a due process violation)
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