Civil Procedure II

Cohen v. Republic of Philippines

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, 1998

Facts:

Plaintiff received four paintings wort nearly $5 million dollars on consignment from defendant Braemer, Marcos's agent over her home where the paintings hung. Braemer demanded plaintiff return the paintings, but plaintiff refused, unsure of who actually owned the paintings. Braemer claimed that Marcos authorized him to sell the paintings and that he had them as collateral for $800,000 of loans made to or guaranteed for Marcos.

The Philippine government claims the paintings belong to it, as the paintings were either purchased with funds for its benefit or with funds Marcos's husband acquired illegally during his tenancy as the country's president.

Marcos now seeks to intervene in the action, claiming they are her personal property bought with her own money without any security interest of Braemer's, or at least not after paying him.

Issue:

Can Marcos intervene?

Rule:

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Fed. R. Civ. plaintiff.. Rule 24(a)(2) allows anyone, upon timely application, to intervene in an action if:

The applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.

Explanation:

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Timeliness is a flexible determination made in the discretion of the Court. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether a motion to intervene is timely are

  1. how long the applicant knew of his interest before making the motion;
  2. prejudice to the existing parties from any such delay;
  3. Prejudice to applicant if the motion is denied;
  4. other unusual circumstances.

Reasoning:

  • Marcos intervened five months after the initial complaint was filed, but all parties knew of her potential intervention since the inception of the action. The delay was only caused by negotiations between Marcos and the Philippine government in a separate action. Given the complex politically sensitive implications of this action, this delay was not unreasonable. It does not alter the trial schedule, so the existing parties have not been unduly prejudiced.

  • Marcos has an interest in the paintings that would likely be prejudiced if her intervention was denied, as both Braemer and the Philippine government claim to have their own interests in the paintings, while Marcos claims to have a superior interest the Philippine's and that Braemer has no interest. Neither other party would be likely to adequately represent her interests.

Holding:

Marcos fulfills the requirements of FRCP 24(a)(2) and can therefore intervene. Marcos's motion for leave to intervene granted.