FROM BOYD CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE GEORGE W. DAVIS, III, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 17-CI-00335
FOR APPELLANT: Sebastian M. Joy Catlettsburg, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEE ASHLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: James H. Moore, III
BEFORE: COMBS, GOODWINE, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.
Estate of Justin Reeder ("the Estate") appeals the
Boyd Circuit Court's order granting Appellee, Ashland
Police Department's ("APD"), motion for summary
judgment. Appellant argues: (1) the trial court improperly
granted summary judgment based on the doctrine of res
judicata; (2) the trial court improperly granted summary
judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed; and
(3) failure to timely appeal the Boyd Circuit Court's
denial of its motion to intervene was excusable neglect.
Finding no error, we affirm.
October 17, 2016, APD received a missing person report on
Justin Reeder. The report noted Reeder was last seen with
Jacob Lane. Two days later, APD officers initiated a formal
investigation after receiving reports that Reeder's body
was found in an unknown field. Upon hearing this report, APD
officers interviewed Reeder's parents at their home.
the interview, Reeder's mother consented to a search of
Reeder's bedroom. In its search, the officers discovered
items believed to be related to drug
trafficking. After that, the officers furthered their
investigation by traveling to Reeder's residence. Upon
arrival, Reeder's roommate, Justice Keziah, answered the
door. Keziah invited the officers into the residence. Once
inside, the officers smelled the strong odor of marijuana.
Keziah admitted to having marijuana in the house and
consented to the officers searching his room.
officers entered Keziah's room, they saw marijuana,
weapons, drug paraphernalia, and a small amount of cash in
plain view. After searching the room, officers discovered:
(1) an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon with a full magazine of
armor-piercing ammunition; (2) a 12-gauge shotgun; and (3) a
five-pound bucket with numerous bags of marijuana, pipes, and
other items related to drug trafficking. Upon finding these
items, the officers arrested Keziah. Later in the
investigation, APD officers obtained a search warrant for
Reeder's home, enabling them to search the entirety of
the premises. In their search, officers seized items
indicative of drug trafficking, including: (1)
brownies/cookies believed to contain marijuana; (2) gun
parts; (3) ammunition; and (4) $123, 000 in cash. A grand
jury indicted Keziah for felony trafficking of marijuana and
misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.
November 2016, Tim Reeder, Justin Reeder's father,
petitioned the Boyd Circuit Court to be appointed
Administrator of the Estate, which the court granted. On
February 13, 2017, the Estate filed a motion to intervene in
Keziah's criminal case, requesting to be made a party and
asserting its interest in $120, 050of the seized funds. It
argued in the motion that the amount listed belonged to
Reeder, was not involved in Keziah's criminal case, and
rightfully belonged to the Estate.
February 24, 2017, the Commonwealth of Kentucky offered a
recommendation upon a guilty plea of Keziah. In this, the
Commonwealth stated it would recommend a sentence of two
years for the trafficking of marijuana charge and one year on
the possession of drug paraphernalia charge. Further, both
counts would run concurrently and be probated for two years,
upon the condition that the contraband seized, including the
$123, 000, be forfeited to APD. That same day, Keziah pleaded
guilty to the charges.
Keziah's sentencing, Judge Hagerman indicated
forfeiture would not be adjudicated on that date. Also, he
stated the motion to intervene was not well taken and the
Estate should file a separate civil action. On May 1, 2017,
Judge Hagerman entered an order denying the Estate's
motion to intervene and, in a separate order, ruled the
seized money be forfeited to APD. The Boyd Circuit Court,
Criminal Division, did not serve the Estate with the order.
Two days later, Judge Hagerman entered an amended forfeiture
order. And again, the Estate was not served.
4, 2017, the Estate filed a complaint in the Boyd Circuit
Court, Civil Division, naming APD and Keziah
defendants. In its complaint, the Estate alleged the
court had jurisdiction to adjudicate the forfeiture issue,
determining ownership of the $120, 050. In December 2017, APD
filed a motion for summary judgment in the civil case,
arguing no issues of material fact existed because
218A.460 vests exclusive jurisdiction to determine forfeiture
issues in the court in which the forfeiture proceeding has
been requested. Also, it argued the funds in question were
properly ordered forfeited to APD under the court's May 1
and May 3, 2017, orders, which were final orders that the
Estate never appealed.
December 22, 2017, the Estate filed a motion for an extension
of time to file an appeal in the Keziah criminal case,
17-CR-00029. In its motion, the Estate argued for an
extension of time under CR 6.02, CR 73.02, and CR 77.04. Further,
it argued: (1) Judge Hagerman ruled the Estate had no
standing to intervene in the case; (2) no written orders
reflecting said ruling were entered until two months after
the hearing; and (3) the Boyd Circuit Court Clerk's
Office did not serve it with either order; thus, its failure
to appeal within the mandated time constituted excusable
neglect. The Boyd Circuit Court, Criminal Division, denied
the motion and also denied the Estate's motion to alter,
amend, or vacate. The Estate appealed the denial to this
Court. We dismissed the appeal.
January 23, 2018, the Boyd Circuit Court, Civil Division,
granted summary judgment in the case before us today. In its
judgment, the trial court ruled that under KRS 24A.460,
"a separate [civil] action . . . is not maintainable . .
. [because] the only jurisdiction for the contest of the
forfeited property would have been in 17-CR-29 in the Boyd
Circuit Court." R. at 42. It further found that
"[t]he remedy of the [Estate] would have been to file an
appeal from the Court's Order denying the motion to
intervene . . . . [And since] the appeal was not taken by the
[Estate], in the criminal action, this action is now barred
by res judicata." Id. (internal citations
omitted). The Estate filed a motion to alter, amend, or
vacate the trial court's judgment, but it was denied.
This appeal followed.
Estate argues three reasons why we should rule in its favor
and overturn the trial court's ruling: (1) the trial
court improperly granted summary judgment based on the
doctrine of res judicata; (2) the trial court improperly
granted summary judgment because genuine issues of material
fact existed; and (3) failure to timely appeal the Boyd
Circuit Court's denial of its motion to intervene was
excusable neglect. While, at its core, this case hinges on
the Estate's standing-or lack thereof-we address each
argument in turn.
judgment, the trial court ruled that the doctrine of res
judicata barred the action at hand. The Estate argues res
judicata does not apply here because the doctrine only
applies to named parties and those in privity with the
parties of the previous action. Newman v. Newman,
451 S.W.2d 417 (Ky. 1970). But what the Estate did not
mention is that res judicata encompasses both claim and issue
preclusion. Yeoman v. Commonwealth, Health Policy
Bd., 983 S.W.2d 459, 464-65 (Ky. 1998).
courts generally use "res judicata" to describe
both claim and issue preclusion, the doctrines differ.
"Claim preclusion bars a party from re-litigating a
previously adjudicated cause of action and entirely bars a
new lawsuit on the same cause of action. Issue preclusion
bars the parties from relitigating any issue actually
litigated and finally decided in an earlier action."
Id. at 465 (citations omitted).
stated above, courts use "res judicata" as a
general, blanketed phrase, which encompasses both claim and
issue preclusion. For the sake of jurisprudential clarity, we
must parse this phrase, showing the differences between the
two doctrines. Often, a court's use of the phrase
"res judicata" is indicative of claim preclusion.
This is most likely because until 1970, Kentucky courts only
recognized the doctrine of claim preclusion. Sedley v.
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