Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Amodeo: Criminal Defendant Lacked Article III Standing to Appeal Order Partially Vacating Final Forfeiture Order

In United States v. Amodeo, No. 15-12643 (Feb. 21, 2019) (William Pryor, Rosenbaum, Moore), the Court held that a criminal defendant lacked Article III standing to appeal the partial vacatur of a final forfeiture order entered in his case.

The preliminary forfeiture order extinguished all of the defendant's interests in the property (here, two shell companies).  After no third parties claimed ownership, the court entered a final order forfeiting the companies to the government.  Subsequently, the defendant's victims brought a lawsuit and named the two companies as defendants.  The government had no interest in defending those companies in the lawsuit, and so it moved to partially vacate the final forfeiture order to divest itself of any ownership in the companies.  The district court granted that request.  The defendant then sought to appeal that order, but the Eleventh Circuit found that it did not aggrieve him in any way.  It reasoned that the preliminary forfeiture order had extinguished his interest in the companies, and the partial vacatur of the final forfeiture order did not revive any ownership interest of his.  Because he had no ownership interest in the companies, and thus no potential liability in the lawsuit, he lacked Article III standing to bring the appeal.

Judge Rosenbaum concurred in the judgment.  She agreed that the defendant lacked standing, but disagreed that Article III standard must always be determined first when more than one non-merits issue could dispose of a case.