Appeals Court (February 19, 2010)
The forfeiture statute, G.L. c. 94C, § 47, requires an intervening party to hold a secured interest in the seized property.
In December 2008, Clancy was arrested on drug charges, and the police seized $125,191. In January 2009, the Commonwealth initiated an in rem proceeding under G.L. c. 94C, § 47(d) to obtain the $125,191. In an unrelated matter, Aftermath Cleaning (Aftermath) had received a civil judgment against Clancy in April 2008, but it was unsuccessful in satisfying its claim. In March 2009, Aftermath filed a motion to intervene (under Mass.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(2)) in the Commonwealth's forfeiture proceeding as a judgment creditor. Aftermath's motion was denied, and it appealed.
Pursuant to G.L. c.94C, § 47(d), the Commonwealth must give notice to the "owner of…real property, moneys or other things of value and to such other persons as appear to have an interest" in the seized property. This "interest" is not defined in the statute or in Massachusetts case law.
The Appeals Court looked to federal law for guidance, and found that neither unsecured nor judgment creditors have standing to challenge the civil forfeiture of their debtors' property. As such, the Appeals Court held that "a judgment creditor without a successful levy upon the seized property does not, as a matter of law, have an 'interest' in the seized property for the purpose of the Massachusetts forfeiture statute. Aftermath did not have a security interest in the seized property. Therefore, its claim is not sufficiently direct to be an interest that would permit intervention.