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United States v. Elashi

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

June 12, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
GHASSAN ELASHI, Defendant
v.
MAJIDA SALEM, Appellant

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee (14-10751, 14-10800): Megan J. Fahey, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth, TX.

For MAJIDA SALEM, Appellant (14-10751, 14-10800): Marlo Pfister Cadeddu, Esq., Dallas, TX; John D. Cline, San Francisco, CA.

Before BARKSDALE, SOUTHWICK, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 548

STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Majida Salem appeals the district court's final order of garnishment that orders her to pay the balance of the $3,500 special assessment that was part of her husband's criminal conviction and sentence. Because the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act authorizes the Government to garnish Salem's salary, we must AFFIRM.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In 2009, Appellant Majida Salem's husband, Ghassan Elashi, was convicted of 35 counts of violating various federal laws. The district court sentenced Elashi to 65 years in prison and ordered him to pay a $3,500 special assessment. As of October 28, 2013, Elashi had paid only $587.12 of the assessment, resulting in a $2,912.88 balance.

Because Elashi's remaining debt was set to expire on May 27, 2014, see 18 U.S.C. § 3013(c), the Government filed an Application for Writ of Garnishment on November 5, 2013. The district court issued a writ of garnishment to Brighter Horizons Academy, Salem's employer, instructing the school to withhold 25% of Salem's take-home pay. See 15 U.S.C. § 1673. Brighter Horizons was served, and it filed an answer stating that Salem's monthly take-home pay is $3,362.12.

On December 3, 2013, Salem moved to quash the writ of garnishment, arguing that Texas state law exempted her wages from garnishment. The district court, however, denied Salem's motion, holding that state-law exemptions do not apply to the enforcement of federal criminal debt. The district court entered a final order of garnishment on July 2, 2014. Salem timely appealed.[1]

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This court reviews a garnishment order for abuse of discretion. United States v. Clayton, 613 F.3d 592, 595 (5th Cir. 2010). A district court necessarily abuses its discretion if its conclusion is based on an erroneous determination of the law. Id. The controlling issue here is one of statutory ...


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