Ninth Circuit Opinion: U.S.A. v. Frederick A. Obak

Posting Date: 
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
An opinion affirming a conviction in a 2014 criminal case has been issued by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
 
Click here to view and download the opinion:  http://www.gud.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/documents/16-10362_usa_v._obak_opinion.pdf

The panel affirmed a conviction in the United States District Court for the District Court of Guam, in a case in which the defendant argued that his constitutional right under Article III, Section 2, clause 3 and the Sixth Amendment to be tried in a state or district where the crime was committed was violated because Guam is neither a state nor a district.

The panel dispensed with the defendant’s challenge to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction because under the Organic Act of Guam, the District Court of Guam has the same jurisdiction as a district court of the United States.

The panel wrote that the defendant waived any objection as to a defect in venue, but that the government, by not raising the waiver issue, waived its ability to rely on the defendant’s waiver. The panel wrote that the framework set forth by Fed. R. Crim. P. 18 and 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a) places venue in both Guam and Washington State.

The panel held that the defendant’s Article III challenge fails because, unlike certain other provisions of the United States Constitution, Congress never extended Article III, Section 2, clause 3 to Guam.

Recognizing that Congress did extend the Sixth Amendment in its entirety to Guam, the panel held that the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial in the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” was not violated by laying venue in Guam. The panel explained that to hold otherwise would require ignoring the constitutional and statutory framework established for Guam, overturn established precedent, and effectively strip federal district courts located in unincorporated territories of the ability to hear certain cases.