Bautista v. Mayorkas, No. 3:22-cv-1185 (S.D. Cal., filed Dec. 8, 2022)
Plaintiff, Mr. Bautista, filed a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seeking the return of his vehicle. Plaintiff alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments.
On November 4, 2021, Plaintiff’s wife, who is the registered owner of the vehicle, met a friend in Tijuana, Mexico to give her a ride to her job in San Diego. While there, the wife loaned her car to her friend while the wife went to the store. Without the wife’s knowledge, her friend picked up two people who did not have legal status in the United States and concealed them in the trunk. When the wife and friend were stopped at the San Ysidro checkpoint, the wife was made aware of the two individuals. The wife was released without criminal charge because her friend was operating the vehicle when it was seized.
That same day, CBP seized the vehicle. The wife received a Notice of Seizure on November 9, 2021, indicating that the CBP was commencing forfeiture action against the vehicle and provided guidance on how to proceed. On November 19, 2021, the wife filed a petition for return with CBP. Following receipt of notice of seizure, Plaintiff and his wife both filed petitions for return of the seized vehicle with CBP. CBP did not return the vehicle.
On August 12, 2022, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Southern District of California. On September 21, 2022, Plaintiff filed an ex parte motion for preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from disposing of his 2021 Nissan Sentra. After full briefing, on October 11, 2022, the court denied the ex parte motion for preliminary injunction as moot because Defendants declared they would hold onto the vehicle until judgment is entered in the case. Subsequently, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Civil Asset Forfeiture Act of 2000 divests the court of jurisdiction. The district court granted Defendants’ motion, finding it lacked jurisdiction over the claimant’s challenge to merits of agency’s determination. The Court also denied Plaintiff’s request for leave to file an amended complaint on December 8, 2022.
Counsel: Jason E. Ankeny, Jason E. Ankeny P.S.; Kirsten Zittlau, Zittlau Law