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Posted by: Landry Butler on Dec 21, 2016

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Vernon Elliott Lockhart, pro se appellant.

Attorneys 2:

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, Grant C. Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, and, Andre´e S. Blumstein, Solicitor General, for the appellee, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Commissioner.

Judge(s): SWINEY

This appeal arises from a civil forfeiture. Vernon Lockhart (“Lockhart”) was charged and later convicted on a number of criminal counts related to the distribution of large amounts of marijuana. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (“the Department”) declared as forfeited certain of Lockhart's properties alleged to be derived from illegal drug transactions. An Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”) found in favor of the Department by a preponderance of the evidence, a decision which was affirmed on appeal by the Chancery Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”). Lockhart appeals to this Court, arguing, in large part, that the evidence used against him should have been suppressed and that the ALJ and Trial Court erred by failing to conduct an analysis of his suppression issue independent of the resolution of that issue in the criminal court proceedings. We hold, inter alia, that the ALJ's order of forfeiture was supported by a preponderance of the evidence and that the doctrine of collateral estoppel bars Lockhart from re-litigating whether the evidence should have been suppressed as that issue has been resolved finally on appeal in his criminal proceedings. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court upholding the ALJ's order declaring Lockhart's designated properties forfeited to the state.