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City of Meridian v. $104

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

September 28, 2017

CITY OF MERIDIAN, MISSISSIPPI d/b/a EAST MISSISSIPPI DRUG TASK FORCE
v.
$104, 960.00 U.S. CURRENCY, AND A 2003 FORD F-150 SUPERCAB TRUCK, VIN #1FTRX17213NB65899 AND MARIA I. VALLE CATALAN

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/28/2015

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

         LAUDERDALE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. LESTER F. WILLIAMSON, JR. TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ANDY DAVIS.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: J. STEWART PARRISH JESSICA LEIGH MASSEY.

          BEAM, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. The City of Meridian filed a petition for forfeiture under Mississippi Code Sections 41-29-153(a)(5) and/or 41-29-153(a)(7) against Maria Catalan after police found $104, 690 in her truck during a traffic stop. Catalan filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, which the Lauderdale County County Court granted. The Lauderdale County Circuit Court affirmed. The City appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. City of Meridian v. $104, 960.00 U.S. Currency, 2016 WL 3906076 (Miss. Ct. App. July 19, 2016). The City petitioned this Court for writ of certiorari.

         ¶2. Having granted certiorari, we agree with the Court of Appeals' dissent that the City's forfeiture petition satisfies the notice pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. We also agree with the Court of Appeals' dissent that in deciding the Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the county court considered matters outside the City's petition. The court also considered matters outside the pleadings for purposes of Rule 12(c), which allows for a judgment on the pleadings. In doing so, the county court in effect converted the Rule 12(b)(6) and/or 12(c) motion into a motion for summary judgment, as provided in Rule 56 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56(c) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure requires at least ten days' notice to both parties that the court is converting the motion, which did not occur in this instance. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals as well as the county court's order, and remand the case for further proceedings.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. The Court of Appeals set forth the facts of the case as follows:

On June 2, 2012, Catalan was pulled over for "tired" driving. A consensual search revealed $104, 690 hidden in one of the truck's compartments. No contraband or drugs were found in the truck. Nor was Catalan charged with any criminal offense or even a traffic citation.
A few weeks later, the City filed a petition for forfeiture requesting the forfeiture of Catalan's truck and the $104, 690. Catalan filed an answer and a request for production. The City then filed a motion to continue and/or set the case, and the case was set for November 3, 2012.
The case dragged on for over a year with discovery and motions. On August 14, 2013, Catalan filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). After a hearing, the court granted the motion and ordered the City to return the confiscated money and truck to Catalan. The City appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the county court's decision. . . .

City of Meridian, 2016 WL 3906076, at *1.

         ¶4. The Court of Appeals held that, while the City's petition named the currency and truck as items for forfeiture, it failed to state any reason for their forfeiture. Id. at *3. "Specifically, the City presented no facts or circumstances to show how the use or intended use of the money and truck violated the Mississippi Uniform Controlled Substances Law." See id. (relying on M.R.C.P. 8 cmt., which states, "[a]lthough Rule 8 abolishes many technical requirements of pleadings, it does not eliminate the necessity of stating circumstances, occurrences, and events which support the proffered claim"). Therefore, ...


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