Ruth v. Department of Legal Affairs

684 So. 2d 181 (1996)

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Ruth v. Department of Legal Affairs

Florida Supreme Court
684 So. 2d 181 (1996)

Facts

The Florida Department of Legal Affairs (department) (defendant) brought an action in Polk County Circuit Court, a trial court, against Stephen Ruth (plaintiff) seeking civil forfeiture of real property Ruth obtained in violation of Florida’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The real property subject to the civil-forfeiture claim was in Charlotte County. At the time the RICO action was filed, Ruth was incarcerated in Polk County. Ruth moved to dismiss, arguing that, under the local-action rule, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the property. The department moved to transfer the pending RICO action to Charlotte County, arguing that (a) although Polk County had jurisdiction to determine Florida’s and Ruth’s respective property rights under the RICO claim; (b) only Charlotte County, as the county in which the property was located, had authority to issue a forfeiture order granting title to the property. Ruth filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the transfer order on jurisdictional grounds. The appellate court then certified two questions to the Florida Supreme Court about whether a trial court in a civil forfeiture RICO proceeding involving real property over which the trial court lacked in-rem jurisdiction could (1) issue a ruling on the civil-forfeiture claim determining the parties’ respective rights to the subject property; or (2) issue a final forfeiture order.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kogan, C.J.)

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