"reasonable and just" and/or "appropriate" condition for the release of the seized vehicles.
Whether the composition of the condition was within the District Director's statutory authority turns on the meaning of the language contained therein. When considering the meaning of the terms of a statute, the court must start with the plain meaning of the terms, keeping in mind that "when a statute speaks with clarity to an issue, judicial inquiry into the statute's meaning, in all but the most extraordinary circumstance, is finished.'" Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 132 L. Ed. 2d 226, U.S. , , 115 S. Ct. 2144, 2147 (1995), citing, Estate of Cowart v. Nicklos Drilling Co., 505 U.S. 469, 475, 120 L. Ed. 2d 379, 112 S. Ct. 2589 (1992); Demarest v. Manspeaker, 498 U.S. 184, 190, 112 L. Ed. 2d 608, 111 S. Ct. 599 (1991). The statute's and regulation's use of "terms" and "conditions," words in the plural, suggests that Congress did not intend to limit the bases for modifying penalties to a single condition, such as actual direct storage costs. See Id., citing, 2A N. Singer, Sutherland on Statutory Construction § 47.34, p. 274 (5th rev. ed. 1992) ("'Ordinarily the legislature by use of a plural term intends a reference to more than one matter or thing'")(quoting, N.Y. Statutes Law § 252 (McKinney 1971)); cf. 1 U.S.C. § 1 ("Words importing the plural include the singular"). If the court accepted the plaintiff's argument, drawn to its logical conclusion, any mitigation agreement would have to be invalidated because neither the statute nor the regulation provide for any specific term or condition. If Congress had wanted to limit the range of terms and conditions available to the District Director, or limit the composition of those terms and conditions, it could have drafted language to that effect. In the absence of such language, the court will not read a meaning into the statute that simply is not there.
The District Director did exactly what the statute provides. He found certain factors to exist that permitted him to reduce the penalty amount, if he so chose. The District Director chose to reduce the penalty amount from over $ 160,000.00 (the value of the seized vehicles) to less than $ 10,000.00 (the amount of direct and indirect costs determined to have been incurred by Customs as a result of the seizure).
The court finds that the inclusion of the indirect overhead costs in the penalty amount was within the statutory authority of the District Director. Moreover, the court has determined that since the actions of the District Director were lawful, the plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed.
The court need not discuss the remaining point of counsel.
For the foregoing reasons, the court GRANTS the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's Complaint.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated April 24, 1996
at Binghamton, New York
Thomas J. McAvoy
Chief U.S. District Judge