On June 10, 1994, a group of plaintiffs whose vehicles had been seized and forfeited by the INS for alleged violations of federal immigration law, after they entered the U.S. from Canada without permission, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of ...
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On June 10, 1994, a group of plaintiffs whose vehicles had been seized and forfeited by the INS for alleged violations of federal immigration law, after they entered the U.S. from Canada without permission, filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington to challenge the seizure and forfeiture proceedings and obtain return of their vehicles.
On an March 21, 1995, the District Court for (Judge Carolyn R. Dimmick) denied class certification and granted summary judgment for the government, finding: (1) the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and (2) the plaintiffs waived any challenge to the forfeiture proceedings because they pursued administrative proceedings. Plaintiffs appealed.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Judge Stephen Reinhardt) reversed and remanded the case. It held that the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(b), allowed for forfeiture of vehicles only when the vehicles were used to transport undocumented aliens and not merely because the vehicle entered the U.S. without permission. Moreover, since plaintiffs raised a constitutional challenge to the INS procedures, the case could properly be brought in federal court. Gete v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 121 F.3d 1285, 1 (9th Cir. 1997).
On remand, the District Court (Judge Thomas S. Zilly) certified the case as a class action, but declined to establish a nationwide class, instead limiting the class in geographic scope. Judge Zilly also entered a preliminary injunction. Gete v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11806 (W.D. WA July 22, 1999). The government appealed.
The appeal was dismissed and settlement negotiations were pursued. The parties eventually reached a resolution of the case. Judge Zilly formally approved the settlement on December 5, 2000 and the case was dismissed without prejudice. Under the terms of the settlement, the INS agreed to change its seizure and forfeiture policies and implement new training protocols. Sections regarding Mitigation Guidance and Probable Cause were to be added to the INS Conveyance Seizure Manual. [See documents in our collection for this case].Brian Ponton - 08/31/2007