Monday, September 30, 2013

Accusations, Embargoes, and More of the Same for Baltimore Coins Test Case


Both the government and the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) have filed new court papers in the bitterly contested case of U.S. v. Three Knife-Shaped Coins, Twelve Chinese Coins, and Seven Cypriot Coins. The new pleadings, filed in Maryland, follow on the heels of last month's round of action.

A Motion to Strike to filed by government lawyers on September 17 criticizes the ACCG for arguing matters already decided by an appeals court last October. The prosecutors write:
Most of Claimant's responses to the Verified Complaint raise issues that were resolved by the Fourth Circuit in its 2012 decision. In particular, in its responses to the allegations in the Complaint, and in most of its affirmative defenses, Claimant seeks to challenge the underlying basis for, and the procedures used to draft and promulgate, the regulations and procedures implementing the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). Those issues have been resolved, and the Fourth Circuit's decision now represents the law of this case. Accordingly, the court is no longer concerned with, and Claimants may not re-litigate, why or how the applicable statutes and regulations were enacted. Nor are the parties or the court concerned with whether the defendant property should have been designated as archaeological material covered by those statutes and regulations. The only issue is whether these particular coins are so designated, such that they are subject to forfeiture in this proceeding.

Accordingly, the Government is moving to strike from the Answer any response or affirmative defense that challenges the forfeiture action on the ground that the statute and applicable regulations were not properly implemented. In addition, the Government moves to strike Claimant's attempt to re-litigate, by way of an affirmative defense, whether the Government is required to prove that the defendant property was first discovered in Cyprus and China, and to strike Claimant's attempt to assert an innocent owner defense on the ground that such a defense is not available in this case as a matter of forfeiture law.
The government also charges the ACCG with being ambiguous, asking the court to order the trade group "to provide a more definite statement--or simply to withdraw--the responses" in last month's pleadings "that are so vague and ambiguous that the Government and the court are left to guess at the basis for Claimant's position, or even what that position may be."

On September 27, the ACCG submitted a Response saying that "the Guild respectfully requests that the Court deny the Government's Motion as moot."

The ACCG protests in a companion Amended Answer to the Verified Complaint that it should be allowed to relitigate the legal issues it lost in the appellate court:
In prior litigation between the parties, the Government represented to this Court that the Guild would be entitled to litigate the issue of whether the defendant property was "first discovered within" and "subject to the export control" of either Cyprus or China in the context of a forfeiture action. Moreover, in this litigation, the Government itself has put its own actions at issue by asserting that it complied with the CPIA's procedures in promulgating import restrictions.
The ACCG proceeds to jump on the embargo bandwagon [see also U.S. v. Peruvian Artifacts] by repeating several times that the federal district court has jurisdiction to hear the case but that the "the Court of International Trade also has 'embargo jurisdiction' that may supersede that jurisdiction."

Accusations pepper the ACCG's pleadings as the trade group makes efforts to paint a picture of intrigue and wrongdoing within the U.S. State Department, writing:
Plaintiff s claims are barred in whole or in part because, on information and belief, mid and/or low level employees of the U.S. Department of State, working in concert with members of the archaeological community ideologically opposed to private collecting, engineered the imposition of import restrictions on coins of "Cypriot type" in potential violation of Government standards of conduct, particularly those relating to impartiality.

Plaintiff's claims are barred in whole or in part because, on information and belief, then Undersecretary of State Nicholas Bums ordered import restrictions on coins without regard to the procedures found in the CPIA as a "thank you" for receiving an award from Greek and Greek Cypriot lobbying groups that were working in concert with mid and/or low level State Department employees and/or members of the archaeological community ideologically opposed to private collecting.
The Fourth Circuit in its decision last year gave examples of how government authorities followed the CPIA law with regard to Chinese import restrictions. The appeals court also joined with the lower federal district court, reiterating that the State Department "complied with the statutory requirements in placing import restrictions on Cypriot coins."

This post is researched, written, and published on the blog Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire at culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Text copyrighted 2010-2013 by Ricardo A. St. Hilaire, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post is prohibited. CONTACT INFORMATION: www.culturalheritagelawyer.com