United States v. Davis, 112221 FED5, 20-30593

Docket Nº20-30593
Opinion JudgeKing, Circuit Judge
Party NameUnited States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Elaine Davis, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge PanelBefore King, Smith, and Haynes, Circuit Judges.
Case DateNovember 22, 2021
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Elaine Davis, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 20-30593

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

November 22, 2021

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana USDC No. 2:15-CR-155

Before King, Smith, and Haynes, Circuit Judges.

King, Circuit Judge

After we reversed Defendant Elaine Davis's convictions for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud, Davis, who had been incarcerated for approximately one year, filed a motion for issuance of a certificate of innocence. The district court denied her motion, and Davis now appeals. For the reasons that follow, we AFFIRM.

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I. BACKGROUND

In United States v. Ganji, 880 F.3d 760 (5th Cir. 2018), this court reversed Defendant Elaine Davis's convictions for health care fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud because the convictions were based on insufficient evidence. Davis had been incarcerated for approximately one year before this reversal. Following the Ganji decision, Davis filed a motion for issuance of a certificate of innocence arguing that she fulfilled the requirements in 28 U.S.C. § 2513 (the Unjust Conviction and Imprisonment Statute) and, in the alternative, that the statute is unconstitutional in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Nelson v. Colorado.1 A magistrate judge held an oral argument and subsequently recommended denial of Davis's motion. The district court allowed for supplemental briefing, heard oral argument, and subsequently denied Davis's motion, adopting and supplementing the magistrate judge's report and recommendation. Davis timely appealed, presenting us with the following two issues: (1) whether Davis is entitled to a certificate of innocence under 28 U.S.C. § 2513 and (2) whether § 2513's requirement of an affirmative showing of innocence is unconstitutional.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The parties do not contest the abuse-of-discretion standard for reviewing a district court's denial of a certificate of innocence under 28 U.S.C. § 2513. However, today we join other circuits and adopt the abuse-of-discretion standard.2 Constitutionality challenges to federal statutes,

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however, are reviewed de novo. United States v. Jones, 132 F.3d 232, 239 (5th Cir. 1998).

III. DISCUSSION

We begin by determining whether the district court erred in denying Davis's motion for a certificate of innocence; then, we turn to her constitutionality challenge.

A. Denial of the Motion for Certificate of Innocence

The "default [burden of proof] for civil cases" is the preponderance of the evidence. CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, 563 U.S. 421, 444 (2011). We join the other circuits that have found that this default burden of proof applies to motions for certificates of innocence.[3] A person seeking a certificate of innocence under 28 U.S.C. § 2513 is required to prove that: (1) His conviction has been reversed or set aside on the ground that he is not guilty of the offense of which he was convicted, or on new trial or rehearing he was found not guilty of such offense, as appears from the record or certificate of the court setting aside or reversing such conviction, or that he has been pardoned upon the stated ground of innocence and unjust conviction and

(2) He did not commit any of the acts charged or his acts, deeds, or omissions in connection with such charge constituted no offense against the United States, or any State, Territory or the District of Columbia, and he did not by misconduct or neglect cause or bring about his own prosecution.

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28 U.S.C. § 2513(a). The government conceded that Davis satisfied the first requirement. The second prong is the focus of the dispute.

Under that prong, Davis had to prove that she "did not commit any of the acts charged"4 and that she "did not by misconduct or neglect cause or bring about [her] own prosecution." Id. § 2513(a)(2). The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Davis...

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