916 F.Supp. 1233 (M.D.Fla. 1996), 95-300-CR-T-21, United States v. Kegel

Docket Nº:95-300-CR-T-21(E).
Citation:916 F.Supp. 1233
Party Name:UNITED STATES, Plaintiff, v. John William KEGEL, a/k/a John William Taft, Defendant.
Case Date:February 13, 1996
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Middle District of Florida

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916 F.Supp. 1233 (M.D.Fla. 1996)



John William KEGEL, a/k/a John William Taft, Defendant.

No. 95-300-CR-T-21(E).

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division.

Feb. 13, 1996

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Sharon Lever, Federal Public Defender's Office, Middle District of Florida, Tampa, FL, for defendant.

Wanda Heard, U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida, Tampa, FL, for U.S.


McCOUN, United States Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the court on Defendant John William Kegel's Motion to Dismiss Information, (Doc. 13). By this motion, Defendant seeks to dismiss his Criminal Information (Doc. 1), on grounds that the Child Support Recovery Act of 1992, 18 U.S.C. § 228, (hereinafter, "CSRA"), 1 is unconstitutional. Specifically, Defendant argues that the statute violates Tenth Amendment principles of comity and federalism. 2 As a second ground, the Defendant argues that the statute is an unconstitutional exercise

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of congressional power under the Commerce Clause. The Government has filed a response in opposition, (Doc. 14).


Defendant John William Kegel is charged by Information that, between May 10, 1984 through September 20, 1995, he intentionally and willfully failed to pay past due child support as required by court order of the Circuit Court of Pasco County, Florida. The Information further alleges that the Defendant resides in a state other than Florida, has owed past due child support in excess of one year and owes an amount in excess of $5,000.


Defendant argues two grounds for striking down the CSRA. First, CSRA is in contravention to the tenets and principles of the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution in that it violates notions of federalism and comity. Second, the statute was unconstitutionally enacted in violation of the Commerce Clause because the activity proscribed has no substantial affect on interstate commerce. For reasons discussed below, the court rejects both arguments.


Pursuant to the principles of the Tenth Amendment, the Defendant argues that CSRA offends notions of federalism and comity, specifically because it regulates criminal activity and matters of domestic relations. While case law cited by counsel has an initial appeal, it is ultimately unpersuasive. The federal courts have traditionally refrained from exercising authority over matters broadly described as "domestic relations." See Barber v. Barber, 62 U.S. (21 How.) 582, 584, 16 L.Ed. 226 (1858) ("We disclaim altogether any jurisdiction in the courts of the United States upon the subject of divorce, or for the allowance of alimony...."). See generally Simms v. Simms, 175 U.S. 162, 20 S.Ct. 58, 44 L.Ed. 115 (1898). Likewise, in criminal matters, " 'the States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law.' " United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, ---- n. 3, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1631 n. 3, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995) (citations omitted).

However, in the instance of the so-called domestic relations exception, the exception is neither a blanket exception nor all encompassing. For example, enforcing a decree involving alimony or child support is outside the scope of the exception. See Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 702, 112 S.Ct. 2206, 2214, 119 L.Ed.2d 468 (1992) 3; Barber, 62 U.S. (21 How.) at 602. Enforcement, according to the Court, does not bring into play issues of comity and federalism because the court does not have to "enter the habitations and ... the chambers and nurseries of private families, and inquire into and pronounce upon the morals and habits and affections or antipathies of the members of every household." Barber, 62 U.S. (21 How.) at 602. In fact, Ankenbrandt makes it clear that enforcement is different. "[T]he domestic relations exception encompasses only cases involving the issuance of a divorce, alimony, or child custody decree...." Ankenbrandt, 504 U.S. at 704, 112 S.Ct. at 2215 (emphasis added). In this court's view, the imposition of criminal penalties for failure to pay child support is analogous to enforcement actions over which the federal courts have long accepted jurisdiction.

CSRA, also, does not violate these same Tenth Amendment notions of federalism and comity simply because it is a federally enacted criminal statute. "Congress ... can criminalize conduct outlawed by states without violating the Tenth Amendment." United States v. Sage, 906 F.Supp. 84, 92 (D.Conn.1995). See United States v. Bishop, 66 F.3d 569, 578 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1032, 116 S.Ct. 681, 133 L.Ed.2d 529 (1995)). Although States usually are the primary enactors and enforcers of criminal law, they have not cornered the market. They do

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not have the sole authority in this matter. See United States v. Enmons, 410 U.S. 396, 411, 93 S.Ct. 1007, 1015, 35 L.Ed.2d 379 (1973) (acknowledging that Congress has the power to enter upon the criminal jurisdiction of the States where it clearly evidences such intent); Screws v. United States, 325 U.S. 91, 109, 65 S.Ct. 1031, 1039, 89 L.Ed. 1495 (1945) (plurality opinion) ("Under our federal system the administration of criminal justice rests with the States except as Congress, acting within the scope of [its] delegated powers, has created offenses against the United States."). In fact, Congress has enacted many criminal statutes where there are State statutes punishing similar conduct. The relevant inquiry, therefore, is not whether the States primarily regulate a particular activity, but whether the federal statute was enacted pursuant to Congress' constitutional authority. If it does, the Tenth Amendment is not violated. As discussed below, CSRA meets this test.


The CSRA does...

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