September 24, 2007
Prisoners argue constitutionality of U.S. criminal code
For dozens of prisoners, attorneys Barry Bachrach and James W.
Parkman, III, filed a petition today with the United States Supreme
Court that challenges Public Law 80-772 (including Title 18, or the
U.S. Criminal Code). Tens of thousands of federal prisoners
prosecuted since 1948 may be affected by the Supreme Court’s
"Public Law 80-772 is invalid," Bachrach asserted.
"This is a case where numerous procedural errors occurred. The law
is clear; an act of Congress cannot become a law unless it follows
each and every procedural step as defined in Article I of the U.S.
bill originates in either the House of Representatives or Senate,
but its exact text must be approved by a majority vote in both
chambers. While Congress is in session, that text must be certified
as having been passed in identical form by both Houses (or "truly
enrolled") and then signed by the Speaker of the House and President
pro tempore of the Senate. After, the bill is presented to the
President to sign into law.
According to Bachrach, spokesman for the petitioners, H.R. 3190
was passed by the House on May 12, 1947. The resolution came before
the Senate, but Congress adjourned before the bill could be passed.
The Senate should have returned the bill to the House to be
resubmitted to the Senate during a later session. Instead, during
the following session, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary
continued its review of H.R. 3190 and added a volume of amendments
to the bill. The Senate passed "H.R. 3190 As Amended," which was
sent to the House for a vote. While the House agreed with the
amendments, the members failed to vote on "H.R. 3190 As Amended."
According to the Constitution, valid business is conducted only when
Congress is in session and a majority of members of both Houses are
present. Yet, Congress authorized the House Speaker and President of
the Senate to sign enrolled bills during an adjournment of
indefinite length that began on June 20, 1948. This incomprehensible
error was compounded when the Chairman of the Committee on House
Administration mistakenly certified as enrolled the original H.R.
3190. Still more errors occurred: the House Speaker and President of
the Senate signed the Senate’s "H.R. 3190 As Amended," the bill was
then misrepresented to President Truman as being enrolled, and
Truman signed the bill.
"Congressional journals clearly show that the House and Senate each
passed two separate bills that were grossly different. According to
the Constitution, this means that neither bill ever became law,"
"Under P.L. 80-772, U.S. district courts were given jurisdiction
over all federal offenses. With P.L. 80-772 being invalid, however,
the district courts clearly lack jurisdiction. The convictions and
sentences of these prisoners are therefore void."
Countries having extradition treaties with the U.S. since 1948 and
their citizens, who were turned over for trial in U.S. district
courts, also may be affected by the outcome of this case.
Note: Federal prisoners are all encouraged to file behind this
landmark petition as soon as possible. If you do so, please notify
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