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United States v. Hollingsworth

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 14, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee
DAVID W. HOLLINGSWORTH, Defendant - Appellant

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Edward John Rivera, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorney, Kevin G. Boitmann, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Diane Hollenshead Copes, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA.

For David W. Hollingsworth, Defendant - Appellant: Jordan Mark Siverd, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender's Office, Eastern District of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA.

Before HIGGINBOTHAM, CLEMENT, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges. PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge, concurring. STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge, dissenting.


Page 557


A federal magistrate judge tried defendant-appellant David W. Hollingsworth (" Hollingsworth" ) for a petty offense committed on a federal enclave.[1] The magistrate judge conducted a bench trial, entered

Page 558

a verdict of guilty, and sentenced Hollingsworth to six months in federal prison. Hollingsworth appealed to the federal district court.[2] The district court affirmed the judgment and sentence entered by the magistrate judge.[3] Hollingsworth now appeals to this court.[4] For the reasons explained below, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

Facts and Proceedings

Hollingsworth was charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(5), a petty offense,[5] at the Naval Air Station Joint Reverse Base New Orleans, a military base located in Belle Chasse, Louisiana (" Belle Chasse" ). It is uncontested that Belle Chasse is a federal enclave under U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, cl. 17 (" Clause 17" ),[6] and § 113 is effective on such enclaves. See 18 U.S.C. § 113(a) (providing that law applies " within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States" ). Hollingsworth objected to trial before the federal magistrate judge, but the magistrate judge held that she had jurisdiction to try Hollingsworth without his consent. Hollingsworth appealed his conviction to the district court, arguing that he had a right to a jury trial. The district court affirmed the conviction and sentence entered by the magistrate judge.

Standard of Review

We apply the same standard of review used by the district court. Peck, 545 F.2d at 964 (" In our review we apply to the magistrate the same standard used by the district court." ). Thus we review the magistrate judge's findings of fact for clear error and conclusions of law de novo. Compare Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D) (providing that district court's review of magistrate judge's judgment " is the same as in an appeal to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district judge" ), with Mid-Continent Cas. Co. v. Davis, 683 F.3d 651, 654 (5th Cir. 2012) (" In an appeal from a district court's final judgment following a bench trial, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and review conclusions of law de novo." ).

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Hollingsworth now argues for the first time that he has a constitutional right to trial before an Art. III judge.[7] The Government argues that, because Belle Chasse is a federal enclave, Hollingsworth does not have a right to trial before an Art. III judge.

In Palmore v. United States, 411 U.S. 389, 93 S.Ct. 1670, 36 L.Ed.2d 342 (1973), the Supreme Court held that " Congress [is] not required to provide an Art. III court for the trial of criminal cases arising under its laws applicable only within the District of Columbia." Id. at 410.[8] Hollingsworth was tried for the violation of a federal criminal statute that applies only " within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(5). Thus under Palmore, Hollingsworth has no constitutional right to trial before an Art. III court. See Jenkins, 734 F.2d at 1326 (holding that " the requirements of Article III are consistent with the establishment by Congress of non-Article III courts to enforce federal criminal laws" in Clause 17 federal enclaves).

Hollingsworth also argues that, even if Congress could refer his trial to an Article I court under Clause 17, the magistrate judge who heard his case is not a member of such a court. But Congress " exercise[s] within [federal enclaves] all legislative powers that the legislature of a state might exercise within the State, and may vest and distribute the judicial authority in and among courts and magistrates, and regulate judicial proceedings before them, as it may think fit, so long as it does not contravene any provision of the constitution of the United States." Palmore, 411 U.S. at 397 (quoting Capital Traction Co. v. Hof, 174 U.S. 1, 5, 19 S.Ct. 580, 43 L.Ed. 873 (1899)). Hollingsworth fails to cite any constitutional provision that Congress violated when it referred his trial to a federal magistrate judge. Indeed, the particular facts of Hollingsworth's case show that, as applied, Congress has not even entered the constitutional borderlands. Pursuant to Clause 17, Congress could have referred all trials for crimes committed at Belle Chasse to an Article I judge, including felony trials. See Palmore, 411 U.S. at 391 (explaining that Palmore was tried and found guilty of a felony in an Article I court). But Congress chose to refer only trials for petty offenses to federal magistrate judges. Moreover, it is not clear

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that Hollingsworth has a constitutional right to appeal to an Art. III court, yet Congress granted him the right to appeal to not one but two Art. III courts.

We hold that Hollingsworth did not have a right to trial before an Art. III judge, and that his trial, conviction, and sentence before a federal magistrate judge was constitutional. Because we are bound " never to anticipate a question of constitutional law in advance of the necessity of deciding it," United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 21, 80 S.Ct. 519, 4 L.Ed.2d 524 (1960), our holding applies only to defendants tried for petty offenses committed on federal enclaves obtained by Congress pursuant to Clause 17.[9]


In response to the dissent, we begin by noting a historical fact that the dissent passes over. From 1894 until 1948, Congress referred trials for misdemeanors committed on certain federal lands to the federal magistracy.[10] The statutes referring

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such trials did not require the defendant's consent as a prerequisite to the magistrate's jurisdiction. See statutes cited supra note 10. This fact is relevant for two reasons. First, it shows that the dissent is wrong to claim that the federal magistracy has always been an " adjunct body," " statutorily, historically, and doctrinally" (footnotes omitted). Second, the Supreme Court's non-delegation caselaw requires us to consider historical context and practice when construing the " literal command of Art. III." N. Pipeline Constr. Co. v. Marathon Pipe Line Co., 458 U.S. 50, 64, 102 S.Ct. 2858, 73 L.Ed.2d 598 (1982) (plurality opinion); see also NLRB v. Canning, 134 S.Ct. 2550, 2560, 189 L.Ed.2d 538 (2014) (holding that historical practice is important when courts interpret the Constitution, " even when the nature or longevity of that practice is subject to dispute, and even when that practice began after the founding era" ). We have not found evidence that a defendant tried under the statutes referring misdemeanor trials to commissioners ever challenged the constitutionality of the delegation. Indeed, in the only case we have identified addressing a commissioner's jurisdiction to hear a misdemeanor case under such a statute, neither the defendant nor the court saw fit to even raise the issue. See Rider v. United States, 149 F. 164, 166-67, 170 (8th Cir. 1906) (vacating defendant's misdemeanor conviction because he was tried before general commissioner, instead of commissioner specifically appointed to hear cases arising on federal land, as envisioned in statute). The fact that these statutes survived unchallenged for more than half a century ought to inform our constitutional analysis.

We also disagree with the dissent on two theoretical issues. First, the dissent insists that this case involves Art. III " federal judicial power" and proceeds as if this distinction carries the day. The Supreme Court once " suggested a rigid distinction between those subjects that could be considered only in Art. III courts and those that could be considered only in legislative courts." Marathon, 458 U.S. at 63 n.14 (plurality opinion). But the Court's " more recent cases clearly recognize that legislative courts may be granted jurisdiction over some cases and controversies to which the Art. III judicial power might also be extended." Id.; see also id. at 113 (White, J., dissenting) (stating that " [t]here is no difference in principle between the work that Congress may assign to an Art. I court and that which the Constitution assigns to Art. III courts" ); Palmore, 411 U.S. at 402 (explaining that " the enforcement of federal criminal law" has never " been deemed the exclusive province of federal Art. III courts" ). By relying on the outdated notion that federal judicial power can never be assigned to legislative courts, the dissent's reasoning is wrong from the start.

Instead of asking whether this case involves " federal judicial power," the Supreme Court's caselaw makes clear that we should ask a simpler question: whether the case arose in a " geographical area[ ], in which no State operate[s] as sovereign." Marathon, 458 U.S. at 64 (plurality opinion). The Constitution and the Supreme Court's caselaw define these areas. They include United States territories, the District of Columbia (" D.C." ), Indian territories, and foreign areas over which the United States has jurisdiction to

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try American citizens by treaty. See id. at 65 & n.16.[11] And, as we explained above, the Supreme Court has left no doubt that the geographical exception applies to all Clause 17 federal enclaves, not just D.C. See supra note 8. Because Hollingsworth's crime occurred in a Clause 17 federal enclave, Congress had the power to refer Hollingsworth's trial to a legislative court, regardless of the fact that the magistrate judge exercised federal judicial power that normally resides in the Art. III courts.

Second, the dissent argues that the federal magistracy is an " adjunct body." Of course, the magistrate judge did not act as an adjunct in this case; she exercised full judicial power over Hollingsworth's criminal trial. See Stern v. Marshall, 131 S.Ct. 2594, 2610-11, 180 L.Ed.2d 475 (2011) (explaining that a court that resolves all issues of law and fact, enters final judgment, and is reviewed under ordinary appellate standard " is no mere adjunct of anyone" ). Thus the dissent must mean that the federal magistracy should be an adjunct body. The dissent's only justification for this argument is its assertion that the federal magistracy is " different in kind from Article I 'legislative courts.'" The dissent fails to explain how the federal magistracy is different in kind, and we discern nothing in the various statutes authorizing legislative courts to justify the claim.

It is true that magistrate judges are appointed by district courts,[12] not by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, as legislative and territorial judges often are.[13] But magistrate judges are not the only legislative judges appointed by other federal agencies or officers,[14] or even the only ones appointed by Art. III judges.[15] Magistrate judges receive a salary that approaches that of some legislative judges,[16] and exceeds that of others.[17]

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And magistrate judges' terms of appointment and job protections are similar to those offered to other legislative judges.[18] Magistrate judges have the professional competence and resources found in the legislative courts. We discern no meaningful difference between the federal magistracy and the legislative courts. Indeed, because the federal magistracy's members are appointed by federal judges instead of the President or the President's appointees, we can have greater confidence in federal magistrate judges' ability to fairly exercise federal judicial power and to avoid diminution of the separation of powers. Cf. Marathon, 458 U.S. at 63-64 (plurality opinion) (explaining that legislative courts exception to Art. III did not threaten the separation of powers). The " differen[ce] in kind" that motivates our decision is Congress's " plenary authority" over Clause 17 federal enclaves. Id. at 75 (explaining that Congress's power over D.C. is " obviously different in kind from other broad powers conferred on Congress" in Article I).

The dissent contends that we overlook relevant Supreme Court opinions. But nothing in the cases the dissent refers to purports to overrule Palmore. Because Palmore remains good law, we do not understand the dissent's objection to our reliance on it, especially since its relevance here is so obvious.[19] The cases the dissent refers to, including Commodity Futures Trading Com. v. Schor, 478 U.S. 833, 106 S.Ct. 3245, 92 L.Ed.2d 675 (1986), have much to say about Congress's attempts to assign a whole area of law to legislative courts. See id. at 853-54. They have little to say about Congress assigning cases that arise in a special geographic area to legislative courts. Cf. Marathon, 458 U.S. at 76 (plurality opinion) (explaining that Palmore did not mean that Congress could create legislative courts " in every area in which Congress may legislate," only that it could create legislative courts when it exercises plenary power " in limited geographic areas" ).

The dissent also raises several practical concerns about our decision. The dissent worries that " [fjederal enclaves are neither few nor small." But the Constitution does not empower us to decide how much federal land is too much. Rather, the Constitution leaves that decision to the Government and the State legislatures. See Clause 17 (authorizing Congress to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over lands purchased by Congress for military installations " and other needful Buildings," with " the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be" ).

The dissent also faults us for failing to identify a " limiting principle" that will restrain Congress from referring " federal criminal felony (even capital) cases that

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might arise in a federal enclave" to federal magistrate judges. There is no death penalty in D.C., but the legislative courts there frequently try defendants for serious felonies. See, e.g., McKnight v. United States, 102 A.3d 284 (D.C. 2014) (upholding defendant's conviction in D.C. Superior Court for first-degree murder). If Congress may refer trials for crimes committed in D.C. to legislative judges, we do not understand why the dissent worries (hypothetically) about that happening in other Clause 17 federal enclaves. Of course, both in D.C. and elsewhere, Congress's power to refer trials to legislative courts may turn on whether the relevant federal statute relates to an issue of national concern, or to " matters of strictly local concern" like local criminal activity. See Palmore, 411 U.S. at 405-07.

The dissent contends that our decision will result in absurd consequences. It postulates that, where an oceanside federal enclave abuts state land, " whether a defendant has a right to be tried by an Article III judge will depend on which of the neighboring piers he is standing on." But whenever events occur along jurisdictional borders, courts must engage in jurisdictional line-drawing. To provide only one example, this court once held that the federal courts had concurrent jurisdiction with the state courts " if the crime charged . . . was committed on the ocean below the low-water mark." Murray v. Hildreth, 61 F.2d 483, 485, Treas. Dec. 46068 (5th Cir. 1932). It follows that, should a defendant commit a crime at high tide, just above the low-water mark, the federal courts could offer him no rescue. Jurisdiction often turns on just such narrow considerations.


Hollingsworth argues that his conviction should be overturned because he was denied the right to a jury trial. But it is well-established that those charged with petty offenses do not have a right to a jury trial. See, e.g., Lewis v. United States, 518 U.S. 322, 325-26, 116 S.Ct. 2163, 135 L.Ed.2d 590 (1996) (explaining that there is no right to jury trial for petty offenses, and that crimes with a six month maximum prison term are presumed petty). Hollingsworth concedes that this argument is foreclosed by binding precedent.

We hold that Hollingsworth did not have a right to a jury trial.


For the reasons explained above, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.



PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge, concurring:

With admiration for my colleague's dissent, and while my heart travels in its direction, I concur fully in Judge Clement's opinion. That we are addressing a petty offense is important. A person charged with a petty offense has no right to an indictment,[1] no absolute right to counsel,[2] and no right to a trial by jury.[3] To my eyes, this reality enforces the power of the Congress over federal enclaves and simultaneously limits it.


Page 565

STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, Circuit Judge, dissenting:

" In all failures, the beginning is certainly the half of the whole." George Eliot, Middlemarch (1874). The failure I apprehend is incremental reassignment of federal judicial power. From the first Judiciary Act, magistrates (later " commissioners," presently " magistrate judges" ) have assisted federal district judges, the primary courts of original jurisdiction in the federal system.[1] As assistants, the federal magistracy is an Article III adjunct body--joining in aid, indispensably and even magisterially--but always part of, and with delimited Article III jurisdiction and authority. That is true statutorily,[2] historically, and doctrinally,[3] and is

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so constitutionally.[4] U.S. Const. art. III, § 1 (" The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. The judges, both of the Supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour; and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office." ). For that reason, I do not agree that our federal magistracy is an Article I court system with Palmore equivalence to

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congressional court systems over federal territories and the District of Columbia, available constitutionally, as the majority contemplates, to exercise federal judicial power outside of Article III, and regardless of party consent.[5]

Instead, I would reiterate that the federal magistracy has been a longstanding adjunct body to Article III " constitutional courts," different in kind from Article I " legislative courts," to use the time-tested distinction set forth by Chief Justice Marshall in American Insurance Co. v. 356 Bales of Cotton, 26 U.S. 511, 512, 7 L.Ed. 242, 1 F.Cas. 658 (1828). At least as to constitutional courts whose life tenure and protected salaries give Article III its structural independence, judicial power flows through circuity that is a closed loop. See James E. Pfander, Article I Tribunals, Article III Courts, and the Judicial Power of the United States, 118 Harv. L. Rev. 643, 672 (2004) (" Article III creates an independent judicial department with a single Supreme Court to which all other federal courts, if any, must remain inferior. The familiar pyramidal shape of the judicial department flows from the combined requirements of unity, supremacy, and inferiority, and precludes Congress from establishing an independent set of courts invested with a portion of the judicial power and free from ultimate oversight in the Supreme Court." ).

Notably, Congress has the power not only to make " all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution [its own] foregoing powers" (hence laws establishing bankruptcy, immigration, and military tribunals, whose adjudicative powers exist alongside constitutional courts, often reviewed by them), but also, significantly, " all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution . . . all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 18. Constitutional courts are comprised of " principal officers," and our federal magistracy assisting them is proper congressional objective to effectuate " other powers" reposed in Article III. See McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819).

Finding constitutional birthright in Article I, Section 8, Clause 18's " other powers" phrase--instead of Clause 17's Seat of Government Clause or its Enclave Clause enhancement of Article I powers--enhances Article III courts' discretion to refer matters to the federal magistracy for preliminary review and a recommended decision. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). Indeed, as Congress has revised and expanded matters that may be so referred, the Supreme Court repeatedly has tested each subsequent delegation, when there is no consent, according to one constant principle, namely, that case-dispositive matters may be handled by magistrate judges provided that Article III district courts retain full and ultimate authority " to make an informed, final determination" of the case. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 682-83, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980).[6]

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Section 3401(b)'s diversion of core federal judicial power to try an accused over objection through conviction, and then also to sentence a convicted defendant to prison, subject only to appeals to district judges now reviewing with identical, often considerable, deference given by circuit courts, infringes the " total control and jurisdiction" constitutional courts must exercise over federal criminal trials. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 681-83. As the majority decides, the Article III adjunct has become the Article I judge, at least in any relevant constitutional adjudicatory sense. There may be efficiencies to this arrangement, though the legislative history offers no showing that criminal trials are overburdening constitutional courts. Regardless, the Supreme Court has not shown solicitude to workload as a basis to pass off the essential attributes of power assigned to other branches of our government. See Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 447-49, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998); I.N.S. v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 944-59, 103 S.Ct. 2764

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77 L.Ed.2d 317 (1983).[7] Finally, the implications of the majority opinion's reliance on half-century old legislative court precedent, instead of the Supreme Court's more recent, half-dozen cases calibrating Article III judicial power referred to magistrate judges, are far-reaching, acknowledging that Congress could expand an Article I magistracy alongside and independent of Article III federal district courts to try federal criminal felony (even capital) cases that might arise in a federal enclave.[8]

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Federal enclaves are neither few nor small, and no limiting principle is offered other than that presently Congress has refrained from extending the orbit of first-instance criminal trial adjudication to the nearly three thousand other offenses set forth in its federal criminal code. See Geras v. Lafayette Display Fixtures, Inc., 742 F.2d 1037, 1054 (7th Cir. 1984) (Posner, J., dissenting) (" Maybe section 636(c) [conferring civil jurisdiction on magistrate judges with parties' consent] is a small violation of the Constitution. But the time to deal with this small violation is now, before it sends down roots. . . . It will be harder to enforce the Constitution against the excesses of the magistrate system when magistrates try 10 or 20 or 50 percent of the nation's federal trials--when . . . section 636(c) is indispensable to coping with the federal judicial workload--than it is today." ).

It is said that a well-built house requires but little repairs. Article III federal district judges are not over-burdened in their most essential judicial function, trying federal criminal cases. Without consent, persons accused of federal offenses should not lose their liberty except after trial in a constitutional court, unless an Article III judge reserves " the ultimate decisionmaking authority." Marathon, 458 U.S. at 79 (citing Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 682).

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