United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S NON-FINAL REPORT
J. BAVERMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Morrison and Shanquita Potts, each represented by counsel,
have filed nearly identical pro se motions seeking dismissal
of the superseding indictment against them on the grounds
that the indictment fails to state an offense that invokes
the jurisdiction of this Court. [Doc. 477 (Potts); Doc. 486
(Morrison)]. For the following reason, the motions should be
as each defendant is represented by counsel, they are
prohibited from filing pro se motions. LCrR 83.1(D)
(“Whenever a party has appeared by attorney, the party
may not thereafter appear or act in the party's own
behalf in the action or proceeding or take any step therein
unless the party has first given notice of the party's
intention to the attorney of record and to the opposing party
and has obtained an order of substitution from the
court.”). These preconditions have not been satisfied
and thus the filings are a nullity.
even if the Court chose to waive the requirements of the
local rules, which it does not, the respective motions are
without merit. They are based on incorrect theories that the
Court does not have jurisdiction over the allegations in
Counts Three (charging conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute at least 100 kilograms of marijuana, in violation
of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and
841(b)(1)(B)(vii)), and Four (charging possession with intent
to distribute at least 100 kilograms of marijuana, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
841(b)(1)(B)(vii), and 18 U.S.C. § 2) of the superseding
indictment. Their argument is essentially a claim that the
federal government lacks jurisdiction to prosecute them for
crimes committed in this District and elsewhere because none
the counties that make up the Northern District of Georgia
“are places purchased by the consent of the legislature
of the state and thus are not subject to the criminal
jurisdiction of the United States.” [Doc. 477 at 5-6;
Doc. 486 at 5]. That is, they argue that the United States
may only prosecute criminal cases on lands owned by the
United States and not within the territorial boundaries of
the states, except where states have ceded jurisdiction to
the federal government. They rely on an interpretation of
federal jurisdiction identical in all relevant respects to
one that the Eleventh Circuit has repeatedly rejected as
“utterly without merit, ” which is that the
federal government has jurisdiction only over Washington
D.C., federal land expressly ceded to the federal government
by the states, and territories and possessions of the United
States. United States v. Ward, 833 F.2d 1538, 1539
(11th Cir.1987); see also United States v.
Baxley, 228 Fed.Appx. 901, 905 (11th Cir.
Apr. 24, 2007).
neither the Ward or Baxley decisions
explain why these arguments are utterly without merit, it is
clear that they are. Under Article III, Section 2, Clause 1,
of the United States Constitution, federal courts have
jurisdiction in all cases “arising under” the
constitution and laws of the United States. Under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3231, federal district courts have original
jurisdiction, “exclusive of the courts of the States,
of all offenses against the laws of the United States.”
See Alikhani v. United States, 200 F.3d 732, 734
(11th Cir. 2000). Further, Article I, Section 8 of
the Constitution empowers Congress to create, define, and
punish crimes, irrespective of where they are committed.
See United States v. Worrall, 2 U.S. 384, 393 (1798)
(Chase, J.). “As such, all that matter[s] for purposes
of the district court's subject-matter jurisdiction [i]s
that [t]he United States filed an indictment charging . . .
[the Defendant] with violating ‘laws of the United
States.' ” United States v. Brown, 752
F.3d 1344, 1348 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal
quotations and citations omitted); see also United States
v. Bjorkman, 270 F.3d 482, 490 (7th Cir.
2001) (“[D]istrict judges always have subject-matter
jurisdiction based on any indictment purporting to charge a
violation of federal criminal law.”); Hugi v.
United States, 164 F.3d 378, 380 (7th Cir.
1999) (“Subject-matter jurisdiction in every federal
criminal prosecution comes from 18 U.S.C. § 3231, and
there can be no doubt that Article III permits Congress to
assign federal criminal prosecutions to federal courts.
That's the beginning and the end of the
superseding indictment charges Defendants with a violation of
federal criminal law, that is the Controlled Substances Act
(“CSA”), the Court has subject-matter
jurisdiction. See Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1, 9
(2005) (holding that the CSA is a proper exercise of
Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce);
United States v. Wilson, 238 Fed.Appx. 571, 572-73
(11th Cir. July 30, 2007) (holding that by
enacting the CSA, Congress did not exceed its authority under
the Commerce Clause); United States v. Lopez, 459
F.2d 949, 953 (5th Cir. 1972) (“We hold that
Congress acted within the power granted to it under the
Commerce Clause when it enacted . . . 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) and § 846.”).
the authorities cited by Defendants supports a contrary
result. United States v. Hudson, 11 U.S. 32, 32-34
(1812), stands for the unremarkable proposition that federal
courts do not have jurisdiction to try criminal charges based
on the common law, and all federal crimes must be based on a
statute of Congress. Here we have statutory bases for the
extent that Defendants make a frivolous claim that the
Northern District of Georgia is not federal territory and
thus federal criminal laws cannot be prosecuted here, the
Supremacy Clause, the Civil War, the decisions of the Supreme
Court, and acts of Congress make it clear that so long as
there is a constitutionally authorized federal nexus, the
federal government is free to act anywhere within the United
States. See U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2; 18 U.S.C.
§ 3231; Abbate v. United States, 359 U.S. 187,
192-94 (1959); Moore v. Illinois, 55 U.S. 13, 20
(1852); Hudson, 11 U.S. at 33-34.
United States v. Unseuta, 281 U.S. 138 (1930), is of
no help to Defendants. In that case, the Supreme Court held
that the federal government has jurisdiction to prosecute a
murder committed on property that had been ceded to it by
Nebraska, but in no way did the Court limit federal criminal
jurisdiction exclusively to federal territory. Similarly, the
holding in United States v. Bevans, 16 U.S. 336, 390
(1818), that federal courts had jurisdiction to try a marine
who committed a murder on a U.S. warship, does not limit the
ability of the United States to prosecute crimes that occur
only on property solely owned by the United States.
the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Defendant
Morrison's and Potts' motions to dismiss, [Docs. 477,
486], be DENIED.
IS SO RECOMMENDED
 In Bonner v. City of
Prichard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir.
1981) (en banc), the Eleventh Circuit adopted as binding
precedent all of the decisions of the former Fifth Circuit
handed down prior to the ...