The opinion of the court was delivered by: Telesca, Chief Judge.
Plaintiff United States commenced this action for civil
forfeiture against the premises and real property at 297
Hawley Street under 21 U.S.C. § 881. The Government now moves
for a stay of this forfeiture action pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 881(i)
until the disposition of related criminal matters
pending against claimant Roberta Sturgis, or for a protective
order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1) directing that
discovery not be had until disposition of the related criminal
matters. For the reasons discussed below, the Government's
motion for a stay is granted.
Section 881(i) governs stays of civil forfeiture
proceedings, and provides in pertinent part that:
Under this provision, the Court must determine whether there
has been an indictment filed which is "related to" this case,
and if so, whether the Government has shown "good cause" to
stay discovery in this proceeding pending the resolution of
the criminal matter. United States v. A Parcel Of
Realty Commonly Known As 4808 South Winchester, Chicago, Ill.,
No. 88-C-1312 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 7, 1988), (1988 WL 107346). The
United States contends, and the claimants apparently do not
dispute, that Roberta Sturgis is both a claimant to the
property at 297 Hawley Street and a criminal defendant in
United States v. Roberta Sturgis et. al., Crim. No. 89-53T,
which is currently pending before this Court. Therefore, at
least with respect to Ms. Sturgis, the criminal action is
related to this civil forfeiture proceeding as contemplated
under the statute.
The only remaining question is therefore whether the
Government has shown "good cause" to institute a stay of the
civil proceedings. The Government's argues initially that a
stay is necessary to prevent its discovery demands from being
frustrated by the claimant's potential invocation of her Fifth
Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Such
reasoning, however, relies on the unfounded assumption that
the right against self-incrimination applies only to the
Government's underlying criminal action and is not otherwise
available to the civil forfeiture claimant here. The Supreme
Court has extended the Fifth Amendment privilege to forfeiture
proceedings similar to those instituted under § 881 which,
though perhaps civil in form, are, in effect, quasi-criminal in
nature because they impose sanctions "only upon those who are
significantly involved in a criminal enterprise," United States
v. U.S. Coin & Currency, 401 U.S. 715, 721-22, 91 S.Ct. 1041,
1044-45, 28 L.Ed.2d 434 (1971); Boyd v. United States,
116 U.S. 616, 6 S.Ct. 524, 29 L.Ed. 746 (1886); see also United States
v. U.S. Currency, 626 F.2d 11, 15 (6th Cir. 1980), cert.
denied, 449 U.S. 993, 101 S.Ct. 529, 66 L.Ed.2d 290. As the
Court has noted:
From the relevant constitutional standpoint there
is no difference between a man who "forfeits" . .
. [money] because he has used . . . [it] in
illegal . . . activities and a man who pays a
"criminal fine" . . . as a result of the same
course of conduct. In both instances, money
liability is predicated upon a finding of the
owner's wrongful conduct; in both cases the Fifth
Amendment applies with equal force.
United States Coin & Currency, 401 U.S. at 718, 91 S.Ct. at
The Government also argues, however, that a stay is
necessary to protect its criminal case from the potentially
broad civil discovery demands by Roberta Sturgis. I find that
this reason sufficiently satisfies the "good cause"
requirement necessary to justify a stay. A civil suit brought
prior to, or in conjunction with a related criminal proceeding
"provide[s] improper opportunities for the claimant to
discover the details of . . . [the] pending criminal
prosecution." United States v. $8,850, 461 U.S. 555, 567, 103
S.Ct. 2005, 2013, 76 L.Ed.2d 143 (1983), cf. Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(b), Fed.R.Crim.P. 16. One of the principal motivations
behind the Congressional enactment of § 881(i), therefore, was
to prevent a criminal defendant in such a situation from
employing the expansive scope of civil discovery as a means of
circumventing the limitations imposed upon discovery in
criminal cases. See S.Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 2d Sess. Sec.
I, reprinted in 1984 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News at 3182, 3398-99.
By requiring the institution of a stay with the filing of an
indictment and a showing of "good cause," Congress intended "to
protect the Government from being forced to disclose its
criminal case to a defendant prematurely." United States v.
$152,160 United States Currency, 680 F. Supp. 354, 356 (D.Colo.
1988). Disclosure in the forfeiture case here could potentially
compromise the identity of confidential informants' secret
Grand Jury material, confidential law enforcement information,
as well as the identities of one or more witnesses not
currently required to be disclosed. The fact that the claimant
is willing to agree to a protective order limiting discovery of
some of these materials does not materially alter this
analysis. See United States v. One Single Family Residence
Located at 2820 Taft St., 710 F. Supp. 1351, 1352 (S.D.Fla.
1989). It is noteworthy in this regard that although the
proposed protective order would preclude the claimants' access
to the identities of
confidential informants, it would not otherwise limit the
scope of their civil discovery. Accordingly, the Government's
motion for a stay is hereby granted.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.
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