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Prisoner Must Have Notice of Forfeiture; Sanctions Denied for Lying Prison Official

A prisoner alleged that he never received notice of forfeiture which was signed for by a prison official, had the return receipt marked by a prison official, and the notice marked as delivered.

Notice of forfeiture must be "reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances" to apprise interested parties of the proceeding and give them an opportunity to present their objection. At 960: "Moreover, if the government is incarcerating the property owner when it initiates forfeiture proceedings, we have consistently held that fundamental fairness requires that the property owner or his or her counsel receive actual notice of the forfeiture in time to decide whether to compel the government to proceed by judicial condemnation." On this record, the court can't tell whether that happened. The policy for documenting the actual receipt of legal mail by having the prisoner sign for it apparently was not followed. Therefore the district judge abused its discretion by refusing to set aside the default judgment. The government must either show that the claimant had actual knowledge of the proceeding, or else conduct another one.

A prison official submitted a false affidavit stating that the prison mail logs for the relevant period had been destroyed. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the claimant's motion for sanctions. No details are given. See: U.S. v. Five Thousand Dollars in U.S. Currency, 184 F.3d 958 (8th Cir. 1999).

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Related legal case

U.S. v. Five Thousand Dollars in U.S. Currency