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U.S. v. ASTRA MOTOR CARS

January 14, 2005.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ASTRA MOTOR CARS, et al., Defendants. JOHN McCONNELL, Defendant-Movant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS PLATT, JR., Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant John McConnell ("Defendant") moves this Court to assign the present case to U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, pursuant to Rule 50.3(c) of the Local Rules of the Eastern District of New York Governing Division of Business Among District Judges ("Local Rules").

For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

  Background

  Defendant is facing a eighty-three count indictment involving a multi-state conspiracy to defraud motor vehicle purchasers. United States v. Astra Motors, et al. ("Astra Motors") is designated as CR-04-774.

  On December 24, 2003, the United States filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of various properties purportedly owned by some of the Co-Defendants in the Astra Motors case. The civil case was randomly assigned to this Court. The complaint does not make any reference to the Defendant. United States v. Real Property and Premises Located at 322 Richardson Street, Brooklyn, New York et al. is designated as CV-03-6456.

  On April 20, 2004, Defendant and another Co-Defendant in the Astra Motors case, Robert Morris, were indicted by a Grand Jury sitting in the Eastern District of New York. Defendant's single-indictment case was assigned to Judge Feuerstein, while Mr. Morris's case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert. The Defendant's case is designated as CR-04-0383.

  On August 25, 2004, a Grand Jury sitting in the Eastern District of New York indicted the Defendant and 12 Co-Defendants in the Astra Motors case.*fn1

  All of the Defendants in the Astra Motors case appeared for the first time before this Court on September 9, 2004. On September 13, 2004, the Government submitted a letter requesting that this Court determine that the Astra Motors case be deemed "related" to civil case CV-03-6456. Defendant objected to this request.

  On September 15, 2004, the Defendant submitted a letter to this Court further objecting to the Government's request to relate CV-03-6456 and CR-04-774. The Defendant then filed this motion on November 9, 2004, again requesting the Court deny the Government's request to relate the two cases and in addition, requesting that the Astra Motors case be reassigned to Judge Feuerstein.

  Analysis

  Defendant's argument for reassignment of the Astra Motors case is grounded upon the Local Rules, adopted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 137. Both the Defendant and the Government are reminded to read the preamble to the Local Rules which states that "[t]hese rules are adopted for the internal management of the case load of the court and shall not be deemed to vest any rights in litigants or their attorneys. . . ." Furthermore, as this Court has heretofore stated, "these rules are not intended to give the parties a right to litigate where a particular case will be tried, but merely provide the guidelines by which the Eastern District administratively handles and assigns its cases." United States v. Garces, 849 F. Supp. 852, 861 (E.D.N.Y. 1994); see also United States v. All Funds on Deposit in Bus. Money Mkt. Account No. 028-0942059-66, 319 F. Supp. 2d 290, 293 (E.D.N.Y. 2004).

  In short, the Defendant does not have any rights to make the present motion and the present motion is denied on this ground. Moreover, there is no reason to hold that the forfeiture filing on December 24, 2003 should not be the controlling event here in that it involves the same facts and issues to be tried in all of the subsequently filed cases.

  A "related" case is defined by Local Rule 50.3(a) as:
A case is "related" to another for purposes of this guideline when, because of the similarity of facts and legal issues or because the cases arise from the same transactions or events, a substantial saving of judicial resources is likely to result from assigning both cases to the same judge and magistrate judge.
Concerning criminal cases, Local Rule 50.3(c) further provides:
(c) Criminal Cases.
Criminal cases are "related" only when (A) a superseding indictment or information is filed, or (B) more than one indictment or information is filed against the same defendant or defendants, or (C) when an application is filed by a person in custody that relates to a prior action. Other cases will be deemed "related" only upon written application by a party, upon not less than ten days' notice to each other party, to the judge presiding over the earlier assigned case. The application will be granted only if a substantial saving of judicial resources is likely to result form assigning both cases to the same judge, or is otherwise in the interest of justice.
  The Defendant argues that pursuant to Local Rule 50.3(c)(B) the Astra Motors case is "related" to his earlier indictment pending before Judge Feuerstein as he is the same defendant in both indictments. (Def.'s Mem. at 3). The cases are "related," but Local Rule 50.3(c) is addressed only to criminal cases. An earlier matter — the December 2003 civil complaint — must also be considered, however, when deciding whether any cases involving the Defendant are "related" under the Local ...

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