United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. TRAUGER, United States District Judge.
petitioner, Monroe Dodson, has filed a petition seeking a
federal writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 and has paid the filing fee. The petition is before the
court for initial review pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts (“Habeas Rules”). As an initial matter,
the court notes that the petitioner names the Tennessee
Attorney General as a respondent to this action. As the
petitioner is incarcerated in the Turney Center Industrial
Complex, Kevin Genovese, who is the Warden of that facility,
is the only proper respondent in this case. 28 U.S.C. §
2242. The Attorney General of the State of Tennessee is,
therefore, DISMISSED as a party to this
Rule 4 requires that “[i]f it plainly appears from the
petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not
entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must
dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the
petitioner.” No. response to a petition should be
required “when the petition is frivolous, or obviously
lacking in merit, or where . . . the necessary facts can be
determined from the petition itself without need for
consideration of a [response].” Allen v.
Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970). Indeed,
district courts have “a duty to screen out a habeas
corpus petition which should be dismissed for lack of merit
on its face.” Id.
case, the petition indicates that the petitioner's claims
were never raised in state court and fails to provide dates
necessary to determine whether the petition is timely. But
more importantly, the court's examination of the petition
reveals that all four of the petitioner's claims are
petition itself provides few details about the history of the
petitioner's case, but the petitioner's attachments
and relevant Tennessee state court records establish that a
Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the petitioner in March
2009 for three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of
especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated
robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of
possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony.
(Doc. No. 1 at 24-30); Dodson v. State, No.
M2014-00073-CCA-R3-PC, 2015 WL 240790 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan.
20, 2015). The actions underlying each count were alleged to
have taken place “in Davidson County, Tennessee.”
(Doc. No. 1 at 24-30.) The petitioner originally elected to
go to trial, but after a recess during the rape victim's
testimony, he agreed to a plea deal with the State under
which the state dismissed two of the three aggravated rape
charges and the petitioner pleaded guilty to the remaining
charges. Dodson, 2015 WL 240790, at *1.
Criminal Court for Davidson County later sentenced the
petitioner to 25 years in prison for the aggravated rape
count, 23 years for each of the two especially aggravated
kidnapping counts, 10 years for each of the two aggravated
robbery counts, 5 years for aggravated burglary, and 6 years
for the count of employing a firearm during commission of a
felony. Id. The court ordered the aggravated robbery
sentences to be served concurrently and all the other
sentences to run consecutively, for a total effective
sentence of 82 years. State v. Dodson, No.
M2010-01615-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 12932514, at *2 (Tenn. Crim.
App. July 12, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct.
17, 2012). The petitioner's sentence was affirmed on
appeal, id., and the state courts denied relief on
the petitioner's post-conviction claim that his counsel
was ineffective in connection with his plea agreement.
Dodson, 2015 WL 240790.
CLAIMS AND ANALYSIS
petitioner now raises what he characterizes as four habeas
claims, each of which rests on a single legal theory: that
only the federal government is constitutionally authorized to
prosecute felonies. Specifically, he asserts that, because of
his over-arching presumption that “all felony cases . .
. can only be brought on behalf and under the name, title and
authority of the United States Government and its lawful
Representatives” (Doc. No. 1 at 13), his rights have
been violated in four ways: (1) the state court had no
subject matter jurisdiction over his felony prosecution
(id. at 5); (2) his indictment was invalid because
it was not signed by a United States Attorney or Assistant
United States Attorney (id. at 6); (3) the criminal
complaint was not filed in an appropriate court (id.
at 8); and (4) the prosecuting attorney must have been
“impersonating a Federal prosecutor.”
(Id. at 10.)
petitioner's premise fundamentally misapprehends the
nature of the criminal justice system in this country.
“The Constitution creates a Federal Government of
enumerated powers” and a “constitutionally
mandated division of authority” under which the powers
of state governments are “numerous and indefinite,
” and those of the federal government are “few
and defined.” United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S.
549, 552 (1995) (quoting James Madison, The Federalist No.
45, pp. 292-293 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961)). The Supreme Court
has explained the impact of that system on the power of
governments to enact and prosecute criminal offenses:
In our federal system, the National Government possesses only
limited powers; the States and the people retain the
remainder. The States have broad authority to enact
legislation for the public good-what we have often called a
“police power.” United States v. Lopez,
514 U.S. 549, 567 (1995). The Federal Government, by
contrast, has no such authority and “can exercise only
the powers granted to it, ” McCulloch v.
Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 405, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819),
including the power to make “all Laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into Execution” the
enumerated powers, U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 18. For
nearly two centuries it has been “clear” that,
lacking a police power, “Congress cannot punish
felonies generally.” Cohens v. Virginia, 6
Wheat. 264, 428, 5 L.Ed. 257 (1821). A criminal act committed
wholly within a State “cannot be made an offence
against the United States, unless it have some relation to
the execution of a power of Congress, or to some matter
within the jurisdiction of the United States.”
United States v. Fox, 95 U.S. 670, 672 (1878).
Bond v. United States, 572 U.S. 844, 854 (2014).
Accordingly, under our federal form of government,
“[t]he States possess primary authority for defining
and enforcing the criminal law.” Engle v.
Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 128 (1982). To put it most simply,
“our constitutional structure leaves local criminal
activity primarily to the States.” Bond, 572
U.S. at 848.
keeping with its power and duty under this framework, the
Tennessee legislature has defined seven chapters of state
criminal offenses, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-11-101 to
39-17-1812, and has vested original jurisdiction in the
state's circuit and criminal courts over “all
criminal matters not exclusively conferred by law on some
other tribunal.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-1-108.
Tennessee law provides that “[a]ll criminal actions are
prosecuted in the name of the state of Tennessee against the
party charged with the offense.” Tenn. Code Ann. §
40-3-104. And specifically with regard to Davidson County,
the state legislature has established criminal courts, a
district attorney general, and 30 assistant district attorney
general positions for the purpose of enforcing
Tennessee's criminal code. Tenn. Code Ann. §
petitioner does not allege that he was charged with or
convicted of any violation of federal law in this case. To
the contrary, the documents attached to the petition
establish that his counts of conviction were each alleged to
be in violation of a particular provision of the
“Tennessee Code Annotated . . . against the peace and
dignity of the State of Tennessee.” (Doc. No. 1 at
24-30.) As explained above, the petitioner's theory that
the State does not have the lawful authority to ...