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United States v. Morrison

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

April 11, 2019

United States of America,
v.
Antoine Morrison (7) and Shanquita Potts (12), Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Michael L. Brown United States District Judge

         As recommended by Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman, the Court denies Defendant Antoine Morrison's and Defendant Shanquita Potts's motions to dismiss the charges against them for failure to state an offense that invokes the jurisdiction of the Court. (Dkt. 501 at 6.)

         I. Background

         The United States charged Defendant Morrison and Defendant Potts in Counts Three and Four of the superseding indictment with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. (Dkt. 287 at 2-4.) While represented by lawyers in the matter, Defendants Morrison and Potts filed pro se motions to dismiss the charges for failure to state an offense that invokes the jurisdiction of the Court. (Dkts. 477 at 1; 486 at 1.) The Magistrate Judge issued an order recommending denial of their motions. (Dkt. 501 at 6.) Defendants filed separate objections. (Dkts. 510, 514.)[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         After conducting a careful and complete review of the findings and recommendations, a district judge may accept, reject, or modify a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Crim. P. 59; Williams v. Wainwright, 681 F.2d 732, 732 (11th Cir. 1982) (per curiam). A district judge “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district judge should “give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection has been made by a party.” Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ. of Ga., 896 F.2d 507, 512 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). For those findings and recommendations to which a party has not asserted objections, the court must conduct a plain error review of the record. See United States v. Slay, 714 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1983).

         Parties filing objections to a magistrate's report and recommendation must specifically identify those findings to which they object. See Marsden v. Moore, 847 F.2d 1536, 1548 (11th Cir. 1988). “Frivolous, conclusive, or general objections need not be considered by the district court.” Id. Since Defendants filed objections, the Court conducted a de novo review of their motions to dismiss.

         III. Discussion

         The Magistrate Judge recommends denial of Defendants Morrison's and Potts's motions for two reasons. First, he concluded they cannot file pro se motions because they are already represented by counsel. (Dkt. 501 at 1.) Second, he concluded that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction because the superseding indictment charges Defendants Morrison and Potts with violations of a federal law - the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”). (Id. at 4.)

         Defendants Morrison and Potts raised six objections. (Dkts. 510 at 7-12; 514 at 7-12.)

         A. First Objection

         Defendants Morrison and Potts claim the Magistrate Judge erred in denying the motions to dismiss, because the indictment fails to state a charge. (Dkts. 510 at 7; 514 at 7.) They question whether the fifty counties in the Northern District of Georgia are subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. (Dkts. 510 at 7-8; 514 at 7-8.) They claim federal jurisdiction is lacking. They point to 21 U.S.C. § 802(28), which provides that “[t]he term ‘United States', when used in a geographic sense, means all places and waters, continental or insular, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” (Dkts. 510 at 2-3; 514 at 2-3.) They argue that this provision limits the territorial application of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841 (b)(1)(B)(vii) to possessions and conspiracies that have a criminal effect in federal lands where states have ceded jurisdiction. (Dkts. 510 at 7-8; 514 at 7-8.) They are wrong.

         The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power to create inferior federal courts and determine their jurisdiction. See U.S. Const. art. III, § 1. Under Article III, § 2, cl. 1 of the Constitution, federal courts have jurisdiction in all cases “arising under” the Constitution and laws of the United States. And 18 U.S.C. § 3231 vests federal district courts with original jurisdiction, “exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States.” See Alikhani v. UnitedStates, 200 F.3d 732, 734 (11th Cir. 2000); see also, e.g., Marion v. UnitedStates, No. 16-15971-G, 2017 WL 8233896, at *2 (11th Cir. Oct. 24, 2017). Article I, ยง 8, of the Constitution ...


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