United States District Court, E.D. New York
January 14, 2005.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
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.
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
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
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 Rules. The Local
Rules allow criminal cases to be related to civil cases when
there exists "similarity of facts and legal issues or because the
cases arise from the same transactions or events." Local Rule
50.3(a). The reasoning cited by the Defendant is inapplicable as
Local Rule 50.3(c)(B) only pertains to whether two criminal
cases are related whereas here we are confronted with criminal
and civil matters.
The Government argues that the Defendant's case should be
related to the Astra Motors case under the language in Local Rule
50.3(c) which states that "other cases" may be treated as
"related" upon written application by a party and if relating the
cases would result in a substantial "saving of judicial
resources" or is "in the interest of justice." (Gov't. Mem. at
3). The Government contends that the Astra Motors case is related
to the December 2003 civil complaint because "the criminal
indictment seeks forfeiture of the identical properties named as
defendants in the civil complaint because the properties are
proceeds of illegal conduct . . .," presumably the alleged
conspiracy between and amongst the Defendant and Co-Defendants in
the present indictment. (Gov't. Mem. at 4-5). Although the
Defendant is not named in the civil complaint, the proceeds the
Government seeks to forfeit in the civil case are the fruits of
the conspiracy in which the Defendant is allegedly a participant.
Indeed in the great majority of forfeiture (drug) cases brought
in this Court the criminal charges are set forth at the beginning
and are immediately followed by the forfeiture claims. This case
is a rarity in that the forfeiture case was brought first and
separately and the indictment involving the same facts and issues
was brought in a second case thereafter.
This Court agrees with the Government that substantial savings
of judicial resources will result by allowing both the civil
complaint and this present indictment to proceed before this
Court. "Based on the facts [of the civil complaint and the Astra
Motors case] it is clear that the evidence that will be produced
in the civil case, already assigned to this Court, is virtually
identical to the evidence that will be produced at the criminal
trial." (Gov't. Mem. at 5). Given the complexity of the Astra
Motors case*fn2 and considering the direct relationship that
allegedly exists between the properties listed as defendants in
the civil complaint and the conspiracy which lies at the heart of
the present indictment, it makes sense to have both cases proceed
The Government has made a timely written application to the
Court requesting that this Court hear all cases involving the
Defendant and Astra Motors in accordance with Local Rule 50.3(c).
Despite the Defendant's objection, and for the foregoing reasons,
the Government's request is hereby granted.
Defendant's motion is DENIED.