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GMBH v. United States

Decided: September 19, 1989.

GOLDHOFER FAHRZEUGWERK GMBH & CO., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE UNITED STATES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appealed from: U.S. Court of International Trade, Judge Tsoucalas.

Archer, Circuit Judge, Cowen, Senior Circuit Judge, and Michel, Circuit Judge.

Michel

MICHEL, Circuit Judge.

In this customs duty case, the United States Court of International Trade granted summary judgment in favor of the United States, holding that, as a matter of law, Goldhofer Fahrzeugwerk GmbH & Co.'s (Goldhofer) protest of liquidation was not timely filed with the United States Customs Service (Customs) within the 90-day protest period set forth by 19 U.S.C. § 1514(c)(2) (1982). Goldhofer Fahrzeugwerk GmbH & Co. v. United States, 13 C.I.T. 54, 706 F. Supp. 892 (Ct.Int'l Trade 1989). In reaching that disposition, the Court of International Trade concluded that posting "bulletin notice" of liquidation alone both complies with the applicable customs laws and regulations and satisfies the minimum constitutional standards for due process. We affirm.

Issues

Two principal issues are presented on appeal: First, whether the Court of International Trade erred by holding that posting bulletin notice of liquidation alone fully complies with the requirements of the applicable Customs statute and regulations; and, second, whether the Court of International Trade erred by concluding that Customs' failure to send "courtesy notice" by mail to Goldhofer did not abridge constitutional requirements for due process.

Background

Goldhofer, a corporation organized under the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany, has its principal place of business in Memmingen, West Germany. Goldhofer was the importer of record of a certain multiaxle "gooseneck" semitrailer covered by Entry No. 101757 of February 16, 1980, at the port of Norfolk, Virginia.

A transcription error by Customs employees caused the name and address of Walsen Design and Manufacturing, an unrelated third party and stranger to the transaction, to be entered into Customs' data base in connection with the involved entry. Consequently, when the June 5, 1981, bulletin notice of liquidation was prepared for the port of Norfolk, Virginia, the importer of record for Entry No. 101757 was listed as Walsen Design and Manufacturing. Customs printed out the courtesy notice of liquidation and the bill for the duty increase. The bill and notice were mailed to the party indicated thereon, Walsen Design and Manufacturing. Goldhofer never received a courtesy notice or original bill.

In the Norfolk Customs Entry Control Section, the transcription error was discovered and a clerk manually annotated the bulletin notice to substitute the name of Goldhofer and its address in Memmingen, West Germany. On or about June 5, 1981, the bulletin notice of liquidation as annotated was posted at the Entry Control Section of the Norfolk Customhouse. No Customs official or employee took steps to correct the data base after the above described discrepancy was discovered and no Customs official or employee made any effort to furnish Goldhofer with courtesy notice.

Subsequently, Customs generated a "REBILL" dated September 4, 1981 (the 91st day after the June 5, 1981, liquidation) addressed to Goldhofer in Memmingen, West Germany. On December 1, 1981, Goldhofer filed a protest at the port of Norfolk, Virginia, covering the involved entry. That protest was received by Customs 179 days after the June 5, 1981, bulletin notice was posted, but on the 88th day after September 4, 1981, the date of the REBILL. Customs denied Goldhofer's protest as untimely because it was not filed within the 90-day protest period set forth by statute. 19 U.S.C. § 1514(c)(2) (1982).

Goldhofer, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1581(a) (1982), brought action in the Court of International Trade contesting the denial of its protest. Before that court, Goldhofer argued that Customs' failure to provide courtesy notice of liquidation both violated Customs' own regulations and failed to meet the minimum constitutional requirements for due process. On that basis, Goldhofer contended that the June 5, 1981, liquidation was incomplete and that Goldhofer's December 1, 1981, protest was timely because it was filed within 90 days after Goldhofer received Customs' September 4, 1981, REBILL. The United States responded and both parties filed cross motions for summary judgment.

On January 18, 1989, the Court of International Trade granted summary judgment to the United States, concluding that Goldhofer's protest of the June 5, 1981, liquidation was untimely. Goldhofer's motion for summary judgment was denied. For the reasons set forth below, we hold that the Court of ...


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