Friday, December 16, 2005

State v. All Real Property

2005 UT 90

The title of this case makes it sound like the state government is trying to privatize the entire state. That's funny.

The short: Collateral estoppel prohibits raising new claims on the same issue in successive rule 60(b) motions.

The too long: The State was seizing property under the controlled substances act, 58-37-13. The defendant never responded to the notice of forfeiture, and the district court entered a default judgment. The defendant filed a 60(b) motion for relief from the judgment. He argued that under 58-37-13, the notice of forfeiture had to be personally served. The State had mailed it.

The district court denied relief, ruling that service by mail was proper. Defendant claimed in the court of appeals that the complaint also had to be personally served. The court of appeals dismissed that argument because defendant did not assert it in the trial court.

Defendant did not seek review of the court of appeals decision. Instead, he filed a new 60(b) motion in which he renewed his claim that the complaint had to be personally served. Both the district court and the court of appeals held that defendant waived the claim by not raising it in the first 60(b) motion.

The supremes agreed. This is simple collateral estoppel. The defendant could have raised the claim in his first 60(b) motion. He didn't, so he's estopped from raising it in his second motion. "[A] party is precluded “from relitigating issues which were once adjudicated on the merits and have resulted in a final judgment." If defendant didn't like the outcome of his first 60(b) motion, he should have petitioned for cert.


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