Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fifth Circuit Certified Question to US Supreme Court

Today in United States v. James Ford Seale (07-60732), an en banc Fifth Circuit utilized 28 U.S.C. § 1254(2) and Supreme Court Rule 19 to certify a question to the United States Supreme Court. [I edited this post to add this link to a SCOTUS Blog story about the decision.]

"A federal jury in the Southern District of Mississippi found James Ford Seale guilty of two counts of kidnaping under 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a) and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnaping under 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c). The district court sentenced him to life imprisonment. The kidnapings occurred in 1964, but the government did not indict Seale until 2007."

Four years after the kidnapping, but thirty-nine year before the indictment, Congress amended the federal statutes so that the crime was not a capital offense.

The question:

What statute of limitations applies to a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1201 for a kidnaping offense that occurred in 1964 but was not indicted until 2007?

Chief Judge Edith H. Jones wrote in dissent:

Although the certification falls within the permissible scope of Sup. Ct. Rule 19, it is not worth this busy court's time or that of the also-busy Supreme Court to pursue that path. The likelihood of the Court's accepting certification, based on past usage, is virtually nil. The Court has accepted Rule 19 certifications only four times in more than sixty years.


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