State v. Culver – 6/7/2016

July 1, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that a claimant who fails to file a timely and sufficient notice of claim is not a party to a civil forfeiture action and therefore lacks standing to file a motion to set aside the judgment pursuant to Rule 60(c).

The State filed a Notice of Pending Forfeiture and a Notice of Seizure of Forfeiture on property seized from the claimant during a traffic stop.  These notices were timely served on the claimant.  According to Arizona law, a claimant may contest the forfeiture by filing a claim that comports with the requirements of A.R.S. § 13-4311 within thirty days.  Despite being timely served, the claimant failed to timely file a claim that comported with these requirements, and the trial court later entered judgment in favor of the State’s seizure.  The claimant later filed a motion to set aside the judgment pursuant to Rule 60(c).  The trial court denied the motion.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s denial, reasoning that the claimant did not have standing to file a 60(c) motion.  Because he had not properly filed a claim within the required time period, he was not a party to the forfeiture proceedings.  Only a party to those proceedings could file a Rule 60(c) motion.  As a non-party to the proceedings, the claimant had no standing to bring the 60(c) motion.   

Judge Kessler delivered the unanimous opinion; Judges Swann and Winthrop concurred.