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Jackson v. Municipality of Anchorage

Supreme Court of Alaska

August 5, 2016


         Appeal from the Superior Court No.3AN-12-11436CI of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Eric A. Aarseth, Judge.

          Willie Jackson, pro se, Appellant.

          Dennis A. Wheeler, Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for Appellee.

          Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Fabe, Winfree, and Bolger, Justices. [Maassen, Justice, not participating.]


          STOWERS, Chief Justice.


         The Anchorage Police Department seized Willie Jackson's personal property pursuant to arrests in 2004 and charged him with several state-law felonies, which were later dropped after he was indicted on federal charges. In December 2012, nearly eight years after the Anchorage police's initial seizure of his property, Jackson filed a conversion suit against the Municipality of Anchorage. In his complaint, he alleged that the Municipality unlawfully failed to return his seized property despite a September 2006 order from the U.S. District Court for the State of Alaska ordering its return. The Municipality moved to dismiss the case based on the statute of limitations. The superior court dismissed Jackson's case under Alaska Civil Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and Jackson appeals. Because Jackson's complaint alleged facts which, if proved, are sufficient to entitle him to some form of relief, we reverse the order dismissing Jackson's complaint and remand for further proceedings.


         A. Facts

         In 2004theAnchoragePoliceDepartment (APD)seized Jackson's personal property, including cash, coins, a 1990 Oldsmobile, a wedding ring, and various other items during searches in conjunction with two arrests. In December 2004, following Jackson's indictment in the U.S. District Court on charges related to possession of cocaine and firearms, the State of Alaska dismissed the Alaska felony criminal charges it had filed against Jackson.

         In November 2005 Jackson was convicted of possessing cocaine and cocaine base and of being a felon in possession of a firearm; he was sentenced the following March. Approximately a week after he was sentenced, Jackson filed a request in the federal court for return of his property and a stay of forfeiture of any property "until conclusion of all proceeding[s] resulting from appeal of this [c]ase."

         In April 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline granted Jackson's request, staying the forfeiture of evidence that was possibly subject to criminal forfeiture pending appellate review and directing the government to return Jackson's property not subject to forfeiture. Approximately five months later, Judge Beistline issued another order granting Jackson's motion to compel the return of his property. In November 2006 Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nesbett filed notice that he had complied with the order to return the property and had coordinated with Jackson's counsel to facilitate the return of Jackson's wedding ring but that APD held all other items as evidence. In January 2007 Jackson filed a "Notice: Of Property Held In Contradiction Of Court Order By The Prosecution et al." asserting that the property seized during the 2004 arrests - including the 1990 Oldsmobile and ring - had not been returned to him; he requested its return or compensation for its monetary value.

         In May 2007 Judge Beistline again ordered the "immediate return" of Jackson's 1990 Oldsmobile and wedding ring and the return of the remainder of Jackson's property at "the conclusion of the appellate process." In April 2010 Jackson filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court seeking review of his conviction; his petition was denied in October 2010, thus concluding the federal appellate process.

         In May 2011 Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis filed a status report explaining that the government had requested that APD make available to Jackson's designee any of his property it had seized as evidence related to his federal prosecution. Feldis informed the court that APD had impounded and then sold at auction in 2004 the 1990 Oldsmobile and that any property belonging to Jackson still held by APD would be applied toward Jackson's outstanding $6,000 debt to the Municipality. Jackson filed a writ of execution which Judge Beistline denied in a January 2012 order, which stated "Defendant's current dispute is with the Municipality of Anchorage."

         B. Proceedings

         Jackson filed his complaint against the Municipality in September 2012, alleging that APD converted his property in conjunction with the 2004 seizure of the property.[1] The Municipality moved to dismiss Jackson's lawsuit under Alaska Civil Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Jackson's complaint was facially deficient because it failed on statute of limitations grounds. The Municipality asserted that the events on which Jackson based his conversion claim had occurred in 2004 and that Jackson's filing deadline passed several years before he filed his claim "[r]egardless of any intervening order addressing an entity which is not now before this [c]ourt." The Municipality asserted that Jackson's claims were governed by the two-year statute of limitations set forth in AS 09.10.070, which provides in part:

(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, a person may not bring an action . . .
(3) for taking, detaining, or injuring personal property, including an action for its ...

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