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United States v. Hawkins

March 6, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Defendant Monroe Hawkins, an inmate at Federal Correctional Institution-Fort Dix, has filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. We are conducting an initial review of the motion pursuant to Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. Hawkins' § 2255 motion raises fours claims, namely: 1) Public Law No. 80-772 is unconstitutional; 2) the court erred by not establishing his crimes occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania; 3) the court lacked jurisdiction; and 4) ineffective assistance of counsel. We will dismiss all of his claims pursuant to Rule 4(b).

II. Background

Defendant was convicted of four counts of drug related offenses. In July of 2002, we sentenced him to a term of 240 months imprisonment on counts I and VI, and 48 to 60 months on counts III and IV, respectively, to be served concurrently.

He then filed a § 2255 motion seeking restoration of his right to appeal. Hawkins claimed his counsel was ineffective for failing to appeal the judgment of conviction and sentence. We granted his motion, and a timely appeal to the Court of Appeals followed. The Third Circuit affirmed our imposition of sentence. He then filed the § 2255 motion now before this court.

III. Discussion

A. Constitutionality of Public Law 80-772 and § 1321

Hawkins argues that Public Law No. 80-772 was not enacted in a constitutional manner. Public Law No. 80-772 vested district courts with jurisdiction over federal criminal violations. 18 U.S.C. § 3231. This section provides that the "district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States."

The Honorable Lawrence F. Stengel, in Charles v. Levi, No. 08-cv-1965, 2008 WL 1995300 (E.D. Pa. May 6, 2008), commented on the history of such constitutional claims brought by defendants in other courts. Judge Stengel wrote, 18 U.S.C. § 3231 was enacted into law by Congress on June 25, 1948 by means of Public Law Number 80-772. 18 U.S.C. § 3231 has never been amended, and exists today in the exact same form that it existed in on June 25, 1948, and with the exact same words. Petitioner claims that there was allegedly a sine die recess between the adoption of Public Law 80-772 by the House of Representatives and the adoption of Public Law 80-772 by the Senate, in violation of the United States Constitution. Various prisoners have made variations on this central argument, such as that the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate allegedly met in one of their private offices during this alleged sine die recess and signed Public Law 80-772 into law without approval from their respective Houses, with the intent on their part to be deceptive. There are also variations on this central argument stating that the versions of Public Law 80-772 adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives were allegedly not completely identical, and that therefore the statute was enacted in an unconstitutional manner; there are also variations on this argument stating that Congress's record-keeping concerning the events of June 25, 1948 was allegedly unclear and confusing, leading many prisoners to allege that something deceptive happened in Congress that day. Drawing upon these allegations, the argument is made that Public Law 80-772 was not enacted in a constitutional manner, and that therefore, every federal criminal conviction and/or sentence imposed by any federal court since June 25, 1948 is allegedly unconstitutional.

As Judge Stengel's summary indicates, we are not alone in confronting this issue. We are also not alone in determining that the allegations put forward by Hawkins are simply not true. United States v. Risquet, 426 F.Supp.2d 310 (E.D. Pa. April 5, 2006)(finding no support in the theory that § 3231 was improperly enacted); United States v. Lawrence, No. 02CR200, 2006 WL 250702 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 27, 2006); Lister v. United States, Nos. 06-cv-1355, 03-CR-374-N, 2006 WL 3751324 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 20, 2006); Cullum v. Fox, No. 06-cv-309, 2006 WL 3691170 (E.D. Tex. Dec. 11, 2006); Derleth v. United States, No. L-05-1745-6, 2006 WL 1804618 (S.D. Tex. June 27, 2006). Defendant's first claim for relief is without merit, and we will dismiss it.

B. Offenses occurred in the Middle District

Hawkins claims that there was no affirmative finding that his offenses occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. This claim is clearly meritless. Defendant was indicted by a properly convened grand jury and charged with violations of federal law. The drug related offenses that were the subject of the indictment all occurred in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Dauphin County is located within ...

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