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United States v. Ashcraft

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 9, 2013

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Joyce ASHCRAFT, Defendant-Appellant.

Submitted: June 5, 2013.

Page 861

Jennifer Bradley Lichter, on the brief, Washington, DC, for Appellant.

Teresa K. Baumann, AUSA, Cedar Rapids, IA, for Appellee.

Before LOKEN, MELLOY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

Joyce Ashcraft appeals the district court's order denying her objection to the garnishment of her disability payments. The district court ruled Ashcraft's disability payments were not " earnings" within the meaning of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (the " Act" ), 15 U.S.C. ยง 1673(a), which limits garnishment of " earnings." We reverse and hold Ashcraft's disability payments are " earnings" within the meaning of the Act. We grant the government's motion to strike and deny all other pending motions.

I.

In 2004, Ashcraft pleaded guilty to several criminal charges. She was sentenced to a term of imprisonment and to restitution. She was released from custody in November 2012. At some time prior to her incarceration, she worked for Amana Refrigeration. Amana provided long-term disability insurance to its employees through Principal Life Insurance Company (" PLIC" ). Ashcraft's employment with Amana aggravated a medical condition, rendering her unable to work; as a result, Ashcraft receives disability payments from PLIC. Those payments will continue until she reaches the age of sixty-five in November 2016.[1] The government does not dispute that the disability insurance providing Ashcraft's current disability payments was provided by Amana in the course of Ashcraft's employment.

In February 2012, the government sought to garnish Ashcraft's disability

Page 862

payments pursuant to her restitution sentence. Ashcraft objected. Ashcraft argued her disability payments are " earnings" within the meaning of the Act and are thus subject to the Act's limitations on garnishment.

The district court ruled Ashcraft's disability payments are not " earnings" within the meaning of the Act and overruled her objection to garnishment. Ashcraft appealed. On appeal, Ashcraft argues that the language of the Act is inclusive, allowing for nonenumerated " periodic payments" to fall within the definition of " earnings," and that the disability payments are the kind of periodic payments intended to be protected by the Act. Ashcraft argues that her disability insurance was part of her compensation from Amana and that her disability payments are considered wages by the IRS. The government argues that Ashcraft's disability payments are not " compensation paid or payable for personal services" as the Act requires and that the Act does not expressly include disability payments within the definition of " earnings." [2]

II.

We review the district court's interpretation of a statute de novo. Planned Parenthood Minn., N.D., S.D. v. Rounds,686 F.3d 889, 893 (8th Cir.2012). To interpret a statute, we examine both the clause at issue and the statute as a whole, as well as " the objects and policy of the law, as indicated by its various provisions, and give to it such a construction as will carry into execution the will of the Legislature." Kokoszka v. Belford, 417 U.S. 642, 650, 94 S.Ct. 2431, 41 L.Ed.2d 374 (1974). Where the statute's language ...


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