United States District Court, N.D. California
IN RE $16, 000, 000 USD ASSET PROPERTY/PROCEEDS OF SALE/CARGO LOCATED AT 1325 BROADWAY AVE., OAKLAND, CA 94612
ORDER DENYING PETITIONS WITHOUT PREJUDICE Re: Dkt.
MARIA-ELENA JAMES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
20, 2016, Jeremy Lafitte-an alleged “Real Party In
Interest/Lien Claimant”- filed ex parte the following
documents: (1) “Notice and Petition of Enforcement of
Maritime Lien, Adjudication and Declaration of Condenmend
[sic] Captured Prize Property and Asset Forfeture
[sic]” (Dkt. No. 1); (2) “Petition in the Nature
of a Precipe to the Clerk for Instant Immidiate [sic]
Judicial Review and Hearing Ex Parte” (Dkt. No. 2); (3)
“Petition in the Nature of a Motion for Issuance of
Order and Warrant for Arrest” (Dkt. No. 3); (4)
“Petition in the Nature of a Motion for Issuance of a
Prejudgment Interest Award” (Dkt. No. 4); and
“Order for Issuance of Warrant for Arrest” (Dkt.
No. 4-1) (collectively “Petitions”). On July 1,
2016, Mr. Lafitte consented to the jurisdiction of a United
States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
Dkt. No. 6. Therefore, the undersigned may exercise
jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings in this matter,
including the entry of judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 73. Having
reviewed Mr. Lafitte's Petitions, the supporting
documentation, and the relevant legal authority, the Court
now DENIES his Petitions WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.
Court has carefully reviewed Mr. Lafitte's Petitions but
finds them largely incomprehensible. From what the Court can
tell, Mr. Lafitte alleges he was in a dispute with some
employees at a Citibank branch over his attempts to open an
account without a social security number. Dkt. No. 1 at
He alleges he “was a visitor at the time of injury 0n
bored the vessel CITI BANK 1325 Broadway Oakland ca
94612[.]” Id. at 6 (errors in original). He
now seeks to obtain and enforce a maritime lien against
“the vessel CITI BANK as tortfeasor” and a
“Warrant In Rem for the arrest of Prize Property $16M
as cargo goods, asset property Located at 1325 Broadway
Oakland California 94612[.]” Id. at 7 (errors
in original). In doing so, he identifies himself as the Lien
Claimant, stating the “Lien Debtors were in default,
causing a total loss, under the Wrongful Death on High Seas
Act, Lien Claimant died from the Default of Obligations by
Lien Debtors[.]” Id. at 1, 6 (errors in
original). Mr. Lafitte claims that as of August 27, 2014, he
had a “Secured Interest / Absolute right given
Operation of law by a tacit hypothecation” and is
therefore entitled to prejudgment interest as well. Dkt. No.
Mr. Lafitte names three Citibank employees as alleged Lien
Debtors, he does not explain why they owe any debt. Dkt. No.
1 at 2. Nor does he state how he is the Lien Claimant.
Additionally, it is not clear whether he is in fact seeking a
maritime lien against a vessel (or whether a vessel is even
involved in this suit) or is instead filing a complaint; in
what appears to be a proposed order, he requests “that
the Clerk shall issue warrant for maritime arrest as prayed
for in the Complaint and Affidavit[.]” Dkt. No. 4-1.
Elsewhere he requests a “Warrant In Rem” and that
“all persons claiming an interest may be cited to
appear and answer the matter in the complaint.” Dkt.
No. 1 at 7.
Court finds these Petitions largely incomprehensible at this
point, on that basis alone, the Court must deny them at this
time as it cannot assess, among other things, whether (1) Mr.
Lafitte has a basis for his purported maritime lien, or (2)
the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over his claims.
the basis for Mr. Lafitte's purported maritime lien is
too unclear to support relief at this time. The only property
mentioned in the Petitions is what he has titled, “the
vessel CITI BANK 1325 Broadway Oakland Ca 94612” (Dkt.
No. 1 at 6), which is, by all accounts, a landlocked,
Citibank branch building. See Boyce Motor Lines v. United
States, 342 U.S. 337, 344 (1952) (taking judicial notice
of geography); United States v. Perea-Rey, 680 F.3d
1179, 1182 n.1 (9th Cir. 2012) (taking judicial notice of a
Google map and satellite image as a “source whose
accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned” to determine
the general location of a home). A maritime lien can only be
placed upon vessels, and therefore cannot be placed on this
property. See Trans-Tec Asia v. M/V Harmony
Container, 518 F.3d 1120, 1128 (9th Cir. 2008) (defining
a maritime lien as a claim upon maritime property, i.e, a
vessel, for service done to it or injury caused by it); 46
U.S.C. § 31342(a) (“[A] person providing
necessaries to a vessel on the order of the owner or a person
authorized by the owner . . . has a maritime lien on the
vessel” and “may bring a civil action in rem to
enforce the lien.”); Black’s Law
Dictionary (10th ed. 2014) (defining
“vessel” as “[a] ship, brig, sloop, or
other craft used-or capable of being used-to navigate on
water.”). Moreover, it is not clear how Mr. Lafitte or
the alleged “Lien Debtors” did anything in
relation to a vessel.
Mr. Lafitte has failed to show this Court has subject-matter
jurisdiction over his claims. While federal district
courts have original jurisdiction over “[a]ny civil
case of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction[, ]” 28
U.S.C. § 1333(1), without a vessel, Mr. Lafitte cannot
seek relief from this Court based on admiralty or maritime
jurisdiction. See Ventura Packers, Inc. v. F/V Jeanine
Kathleen, 305 F.3d 913, 917 (9th Cir. 2002)
(“[A]dmiralty naturally centers around
[vessels]”); Luna v. Star of India, 356
F.Supp. 59, 63 (S.D. Cal. 1973) (“[A]dmiralty
jurisdiction relates to things occurring on or to vessels . .
. .”). Nor has he provided any other basis for
subject-matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 1 at 1. While Mr.
Lafitte cites some federal statutes-18 U.S.C. § 242
(deprivation of civil rights under color of law), 18 U.S.C.
§ 241 (conspiracy against civil rights), 42 U.S.C.
§ 408 (proposed legislation describing penalties for
abusing social security benefits), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(civil action for deprivation of rights) (see Dkt.
No. 1 at 5)-it is unclear how these laws apply. Mr. Lafitte
has not alleged facts demonstrating that he can prove the
elements of claims based on these statutes.
to the extent he meant his Petitions to be construed as a
complaint, Rule 8 requires that pleadings contain “a
short and plain statement” of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief and the basis for the
court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a);
see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007) (a complaint must provide a defendant with
“fair notice” of the claims against it and the
grounds for relief); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (“A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.”). The Court may dismiss a
complaint that does not abide by Rule 8 because defendants
are deprived of notice of the claims against them and cannot
adequately respond, and the Court is deprived of the
necessary information to manage the litigation before it.
See Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d
1047, 1059 (9th Cir. 2011) (“Rule 8(a) has been held to
be violated by a pleading that was . . . highly repetitious,
or confused, or consisted of incomprehensible
rambling.”); Nevijel v. N. Coast Life Ins.
Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981) (Rule 8(a) is
violated when a complaint is excessively “verbose,
confusing and almost entirely conclusory”); Tomas
v. Aegis Mortg. Co., 2011 WL 320901, at *3 (S.D. Cal.
Jan. 28, 2011) (dismissing what the court construed as a
complaint because the filing was “devoid of coherent
factual allegations and cognizable legal theory”). Mr.
Lafitte's Petitions, even broadly construed are unclear
and the facts provided also do not appear to give rise to
claims under the federal statutes cited in the Petitions, or
otherwise provide the required information under Rule 8 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
the Court must deny Mr. Lafitte's Petitions at this time,
the Court does so with leave to amend. Lopez v.
Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly held that
'a district court should grant leave to amend even if no
request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines
that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the
allegation of other facts.'” (quotation omitted)).
light of the foregoing analysis, the Court DENIES Mr.
Lafitte's Petitions but does so WITH LEAVE TO AMEND. If
Mr. Lafitte decides to file an amended petition (or file a
complaint if he so intended), he must state the basis for his
claims and facts supporting those claims. Mr. Lafitte shall
file any amended petition or complaint by August 16, 2016.