Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Harris

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 20, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Michael F. Harris, Defendant, and Kevin Harris; Scott Harris; Holly Patubo, Co-Trustees, Garnishees-Appellants.

          Argued and Submitted March 17, 2017 San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, D.C. No. 3:95-cr-00227-TEH-1 Thelton E. Henderson, District Judge, Presiding

          Howard D. Neal (argued), Neal & Associates, Oakland, California, for Appellants.

          Julie C. Reagin (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Sara Winslow, Chief, Civil Division; Brian Stretch, United States Attorney; United States Attorney's Office, San Francisco, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: Richard C. Tallman and Paul J. Watford, Circuit Judges, and Louis Guirola, Jr., [*] Chief District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Garnishment

         The panel affirmed the district court's decision that a writ of continuing garnishment attaches to a beneficiary's interest in discretionary support trusts, in a case in which the beneficiary, Michael Harris, owes restitution ordered following his 1997 conviction.

         The panel held that Harris's interest in the trusts, which were established by his parents for his support, qualifies as "property" under 28 U.S.C. §§ 3002(12), 3205(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 3613(c). The panel wrote that because Harris has a right to receive distributions under California law, his interest in the discretionary trusts is not a mere expectation; that his disclaimer of his interest in the trusts does not prevent the attachment of the writ of garnishment; and that the trusts' spendthrift clauses do not protect the trusts' assets from the enforcement of a federal lien.

         Noting that the government is not attempting to compel distributions from the trusts, the panel wrote that any current or future distributions from the trusts to Harris shall be subject to the continuing writ of garnishment until the restitution judgment is satisfied.

          OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         In 1997, Michael Harris was convicted of eight federal criminal counts related to theft from an employee benefit plan. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $646, 000 in restitution. He has paid only a small fraction of that amount. The government later learned that Harris is a beneficiary of two irrevocable, discretionary trusts established by his parents for his support. In 2015, the government applied for a writ of continuing garnishment for any property distributed to Harris from the trusts. See 28 U.S.C. § 3205(a).[1] The trustees opposed the application on the ground that Harris had disclaimed his interest in the trusts, with the exception of several checking and investment accounts. The district court granted the writ and ordered the trustees to pay to the United States all current and future amounts distributed to Harris under the trusts.

         We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and must decide whether a writ of continuing garnishment may attach to a beneficiary's interest in a discretionary support trust. We review the district court's legal conclusions on this issue de novo. See Lim v. City of Long Beach, 217 F.3d 1050, 1054 (9th Cir. 2000).

         We begin with the procedure for identifying property subject to federal writs of garnishment. A federal restitution order is "a lien in favor of the United States on all property and rights to property" as if the liability were for "a tax assessed under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986." 18 U.S.C. § 3613(c). In examining the statutes that govern tax liens, as we must do here, the Supreme Court has noted that Congress used broad language so as "to reach every interest in property that a taxpayer might have." United States v. Nat'l Bank of Commerce, 472 U.S. 713, 720 (1985). "Property" subject to garnishment under these statutes "includes any present or future interest, whether legal or equitable, in real, personal (including choses in action), or mixed property, tangible or intangible, vested or contingent, wherever located and however held (including community property and property held in trust (including spendthrift and pension trusts))." 28 U.S.C. ยง 3002(12). In determining whether a property right falls within this definition, "the important consideration is the breadth of the control ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.