United States v. Simmons

Decision Date02 May 2022
Docket Number19-93 (EGS),Crim. Action 18-344 (EGS)
CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)





Crim. Action Nos. 18-344 (EGS), 19-93 (EGS)

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 2, 2022


Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

Pending before the Court are Defendant John Victor Reed's (“Mr. Reed”) motion to dismiss and Defendant Jarome Simmons's (“Mr. Simmons”)[1] motion to dismiss. Defendants challenge the authority of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia (“U.S. Attorney”) to implement and enforce a policy that calls for certain individuals with a prior felony conviction who are arrested for gun possession to be prosecuted under a federal charge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (“District Court”), rather than in the


Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“D.C. Superior Court” or “Superior Court”). Mr. Reed contends that his case, which prosecutors brought in this Court pursuant to the policy, should be dismissed because the policy violates the Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970, 84 Stat. 473; the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 774 (“Home Rule Act”); the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”); and the Due Process Clause. See Mot. Dismiss (“Reed Mot.”), ECF No. 37 at 2, United States v. Reed, No. 19-cr-93 (2019).[2] Mr. Simmons joins Mr. Reed's arguments, [3] and further contends that the U.S. Attorney's transfer of his case from Superior Court to this Court prior to the policy's adoption constitutes prosecutorial harassment. See Mot. Dismiss (“Simmons Mot.”), ECF No. 37 at 1, 10-18, United States v. Simmons, No. 18-cr-344 (2018). The government opposes. See U.S. Consolidated Opp'n Defs.' Mots. Dismiss (“Gov't's Opp'n”), ECF No. 48, United States v. Reed, No. 19-cr-93 (2019).[4]


Upon careful consideration of the motions, oppositions, and replies thereto, the amici curiae briefs, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court DENIES Mr. Reed's motion and DENIES Mr. Simmons's motion.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

1. The District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act, the Home Rule Act, and the Role of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia

Prior to Congress's enactment of the Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970, original jurisdiction over all felony cases resided in the District Court. See Palmore v. United States, 411 U.S. 389, 392 n.2 (1973) (noting that the “the District Court was filling the role of both a local and federal court” prior to 1970). Under this format, however, Congress had concluded that the District Court suffered from “unmanageable” caseloads, and there was some confusion over the overlapping jurisdiction of the federal and local courts in the District.[5] Id. at 408.


The Court Reform Act attempted to alleviate this burden on the District Court by “reliev[ing]” it “from the smothering responsibility for the great mass of litigation, civil and criminal, that inevitably characterizes the court system in a major city.” Id. at 408-09; see also Thompson v. United States, 548 F.2d 1031, 1033-34 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (explaining the impact of the Court Reform Act). The remedy was to “create an independent judicial system to be responsible for ‘local' matters, and . . . free the federal courts of the District of that responsibility.” United States v. Belt, 514 F.2d 837, 842 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Under the new court system, the D.C. District Court remained “devoted to matters of national concern, ” while the newly created D.C. Superior Court enjoyed functions “essentially similar to those of the local courts found in the 50 States of the Union with responsibility for trying and deciding those distinctively local controversies that arise under local law, including local criminal laws having little, if any, impact


beyond the local jurisdiction.” Palmore, 411 U.S. at 408-09. Pursuant to the Court Reform Act, the U.S. Attorney's Office retained the authority to prosecute all felonies in the District. In reorganizing the court system to create the Superior Court, Congress acknowledged that there would be “[s]ome overlapping of jurisdiction” when the same person was “accused of infractions which are both Federal and purely local violations.” H.R. Rep. No. 91-907, 91st Cong., 2d Sess., 33 (1970). But rather than place that responsibility in the hands of a local D.C. government entity, Congress determined at the time that such cases could instead be handled “with minimal procedural difficulties” by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District. United States v. Shepard, 515 F.2d 1324, 1329 (D.C. Cir. 1975).

Three years after the Court Reform Act's passage, Congress enacted the Home Rule Act. The Home Rule Act “called for a multi-stage transfer of operations from the federal to the District government, ” Thomas v. Barry, 729 F.2d 1469, 1470 (D.C. Cir. 1984), and was intended as a “compromise between continued congressional oversight and District autonomy, ” Feldman v. Bowser, 315 F.Supp.3d 299, 303 (D.D.C. 2018). Although Congress reserved the right to enact legislation concerning the District on any subject, D.C. Code § 1-206.01, the Act also set forth D.C.'s Charter, which established the means of governance


of the District and essentially serves as its constitution, Jackson v. Dist. of Columbia Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 999 A.2d 89, 123 (D.C. 2010); see also D.C. Code § 1-201.02 (“[D]elegat[ing] certain legislative powers to the government of the District of Columbia . . . and, to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the constitutional mandate, reliev[ing] Congress of the burden of legislating upon essentially local District matters.”). Executive power was vested in a popularly elected mayor and judicial power in the D.C. court system. See Clarke v. United States, 886 F.2d 404, 406-07 (D.C. Cir. 1989). The Charter also established the Council of the District of Columbia (“D.C. Council”) as the District's legislative branch, and the Council was vested with legislative power “extend[ing] to all rightful subjects of legislation within the District.” See D.C. Code § 1-204.01; id. § 1-203.02. The Council was “expressly grant[ed] . . ., subject to a sixty-day period when Congress can nullify such legislation, the authority to enact ‘act[s], resolution[s], or rule[s] with respect to' . . . the titles pertaining to the District's substantive and procedural criminal law, ” In re Crawley, 978 A.2d 608, 610-11 (D.C. 2009), including the right to enact gun laws, see Heller v. District of Columbia, 670 F.3d 1244, 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (“[The District's] authority in the [Home Rule Act] over ‘all rightful subjects of legislation'


affirmatively gives it the power to enact . . . gun laws.”). However, the Home Rule Act specifically denied the D.C. Council authority to change the “duties or powers” of the U.S. Attorney's Office, see D.C. Code. §1-206.02(a)(8), despite requests to do so, see In re Crawley, 978 A.2d at 613.

Thus, while Congress's enactment of the two statutes in the 1970s substantially altered the organization of both the local government and the court systems in the District, Congress chose to keep intact the long-standing authority of the U.S. Attorney's Office to decide whether and how to prosecute the majority of crimes committed in the District. See, e.g., 31 Stat. 1189, 1340 (March 3, 1901) (codifying U.S. Attorney's jurisdiction over “[a]ll” “criminal prosecutions” except misdemeanor violations of “police or municipal ordinances or regulations”). Accordingly, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia enjoys a unique role among federal prosecutors in the United States. While other states and cities select the officials who will prosecute local crimes, Congress has determined that in the District of Columbia (“the District” or “D.C.”), it is the U.S. Attorney who has the authority to prosecute essentially all D.C. Code felonies and most D.C. Code misdemeanors. See D.C. Code § 23-101(a)-(c). “The U.S. Attorney is selected by the President without any requirement or even custom of consultations with the District, ” and can be “replaced


by the President for no disclosed reason” and without first consulting with District officials. John Payton, Should the District of Columbia Have Responsibility for the Prosecution of Criminal Offenses Arising Under the District of Columbia Code?, 11 U.D.C. L. Rev. 35, 37 (2008) (“With respect to who prosecutes serious criminal offices arising under the D.C. Code, . . . the District has traditionally had virtually no role.”). Further, because “successive D.C. and federal prosecutions for the same conduct are subject to the bar on double jeopardy, ” unlike state prosecutions, United States v. Mills, 964 F.2d 1186, 1193 (D.C. Cir. 1992), this means that if the U.S. Attorney decides to prosecute an individual for an offense under the U.S. Code in federal court, then prosecution for an identical or lesser included offense under the D.C. Code would be precluded in Superior Court, see Shepard, 515 F.2d at 1331 (“[T]he double jeopardy clause of the fifth amendment will bar separate prosecutions under the federal and D.C. statutes for the same offense, i.e., where the offenses are identical or where one offense is a lesser included offense of the other.”).

Here, this scheme implicates the substantively identical felon-in-possession statutes under the federal and local codes. At the local level, D.C. Code § 22-4503(a)(1) makes it a felony for any person who “[h]as been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” to


“have a firearm in his or her possession.” And at the federal level, the nearly identical 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) also prohibits anyone “convicted...

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