Two for One

This being the last day of 2013, I am trying to do some real and virtual desk cleaning. Part of that is making sure I have reviewed the relevant CIT cases for the year. It turns out I am behind by three. Here is a brief discussion of two of them:

United States v. Alejandro Santos and Alejandro Santos, CHB

This decision follows the entry of a default judgment against a customhouse broker who apparently misidentified entries of pesticides as animal fat and misidentified the importer of record. The broker also made unsupported claims for duty-free treatment under the NAFTA and other violations. Customs and Border Protection issued a prepenalty and penalty notice informing him of a $30,000 penalty to be assessed. Santos waived service but did not appear to defend the claims against him. The first round of this case was discussed here.

Given the facts presented in the unchallenged complaint, the Court of International Trade found that Santos violated a number of regulations enforced by Customs and Border Protection. Consequently, a penalty was appropriate. The Court stated that the violations were both numerous and qualitatively significant. Further, he had been warned previously with respect to some of the violations. Consequently, the Court found that the $30,000 penalty, which is the statutory maximum, was reasonable.

Shah Bros., Inc. v. United States

This is another case with some background. I first posted about it here. The underlying issue is the correct tariff classification of smokeless tobacco products from India known as gutkha. Customs and Border Protection initially classified it as snuff rather than as chewing tobacco. The importer challenged that classification in the Court of International Trade. The government has now agreed with the classification of the merchandise subject to the case and, therefore, has moved to "confess judgment." While that may sound good, the importer is annoyed because it actually wants a binding decision on the classification of the merchandise to prevent future litigation on the same point. Unfortunately, because Customs and Border Protection agreed with Shah Bros. in the case before the Court, there is no longer a "case or controversy" for the Court to resolve. Further, this is not a case where the plaintiff will not be able to secure relief in repeated entries. Rather, the importer got the relief it requested. consequently, the Court dismissed the case as now being moot.

Two down, one to go.


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