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United States v. Haultain

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

September 12, 2016



          Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. United States District Judge

         Currently pending before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 3) and Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery (Doc. # 10).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Haultain was born in New Zealand and became a naturalized citizen of the United States on June 21, 2012. On February 13, 2013, Haultain was indicted by a federal grand jury for the District of Kansas and charged with Solicitation of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C.§ 2252A(a)(3)(B) and (b). See United States v. Haultain, No. 13-20010-01-CM-JPO, (D.Kan. Feb. 13, 2013). On July 22, 2013 Haultain pleaded guilty to the charge admitting that he had solicited child pornography according to the facts detailed in the plea agreement. The Plea Agreement stated in ¶ 5:

Deportation Consequences: The defendant recognizes that pleading guilty may have consequences with respect to his immigration status if he is not a citizen of the United States, or if his criminal conduct occurred during the naturalization process. Under federal law, a broad range of crimes are removable offenses, which may including [sic] the offense to which defendant is pleading guilty, as a crime involving moral turpitude. Removal and other immigration consequences are the subject of a separate proceeding, and the defendant understands that no one, including his attorney or the district court, can predict to a certainty the effect of this conviction on his immigration status. The defendant nevertheless affirms that he wants to plead guilty regardless of any immigration consequences that this plea may entail, even if the consequence is automatic removal from the United States.

         On October 28, 2013, Haultain was convicted and sentenced to 78 months in prison. On April 17, 2014, the Office of Immigration Litigation sent a letter to the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri seeking authorization to file suit and to litigate a denaturalization action in this district. Attached to the letter was an Affidavit of Good Cause which detailed that Haultain had illegally procured his naturalization, because he could not have established that he was a person of good moral character. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Haultain was required to prove that he was a person of good moral character from February 17, 2007, five years before he filed his application, until June 21, 2012, that date on which he was admitted as a citizen. Haultain plead guilty to the solicitation of child pornography between February 2010 and December 2010. The Affidavit was signed by Mark Henrie, Fraud Detection and National Security Officer, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, signed the Authorization Request on May 9, 2014. On October 15, 2015, a trial attorney with the Office of Immigration Litigation (“OIL”), U.S. Department of Justice, filed a Complaint to Revoke Haultain's Naturalization.

         Haultain now moves to dismiss the Complaint, alleging that the Court lacks jurisdiction because the Complaint was not filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District, the Complaint is not accompanied by an affidavit of the U.S. Attorney stating that there is good cause for the suit and the action is barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel.

         II. STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A pleading that merely pleads "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation" of the elements of a cause of action, or "naked assertions" devoid of "further factual enhancement" will not suffice. Id. (quoting Twombly). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 1950. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) we must accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and grant all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Phipps v. FDIC, 417 F.3d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir. 2005).


         A. Jurisdiction

         Haultain argues that the statute requires all denaturalization suits to be initiated by United States Attorneys and not by trial attorneys for the Justice Department. He states that courts have interpreted the statute to mean that “only the United States Attorney is statutorily empowered to initiate revocation proceedings” and District courts “lack[ ] jurisdiction to consider” suits for denaturalization brought in any other manner.” In re Benjamin, 217 Fed.App'x. 165, 166 (3d Cir. 2007). In this case, Haultain argues that the Complaint is not signed by the U.S. Attorney and is only signed by Troy Liggett, a Trial Attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation. Additionally, Haultain argues that it makes no difference if the trial attorney who filed the suit had the U.S. Attorney's permission to do so, because the word “institute” in the statute requires the U.S. Attorney to actually “file” suit. Finally, Haultain argues that although the Attorney General can be represented by employees of the Department of Justice, including trial attorneys, this statute only applies to cases which are already “pending in court” and not to the filing of new actions for denaturalization. Because the trial attorney who filed the Complaint in this case is neither an assistant U.S. Attorney nor an acting U.S. Attorney, Haultain argues the Complaint must be dismissed.

         In opposition, the Government argues that the statute simply requires the U.S. Attorney to “institute” denaturalization proceedings and in this case the Government complied with that requirement because the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri specifically authorized OIL to file suit and delegated to OIL the authority to conduct these proceedings against Haultain. Additionally, the Government states that Congress authorized OIL attorneys to represent the interests of the United States in federal court. 28 U.S.C. §517 states that “any officer of the Department of Justice, may be sent by the Attorney General to any State or district in the United States to ...

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