Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Fourth Circuit splits with Judge Boyle and two other circuits on post-dismissal rulings over forfeited historic document
In In re Matthews, the government seized a copy of the proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution that was believed to have been sent to the state of North Carolina in the 1780s by George Washington. The document was seized from the lawyer for the appellant. The forfeiture action was eventually dismissed voluntarily, after some other group conveyed their interest in the property to North Carolina. Notwithstanding the dismissal, District Judge Boyle declared that he had in rem jurisdiction over the document, and determined that it belonged to North Carolina. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit in an opinion by Chief Judge Wilkins held that the trial judge had no authority to make rulings about the property after the case was voluntarily dismissed by the government.