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United States of America v. GREGORY E. GRAHAM
Case Number: 06-8092
Judge: Jerome A. Holmes
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office
Denver, CO - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, and to use a place where cocaine base is manufactured, distributed and used charge.
Mr. Graham was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess
with intent to distribute cocaine base, and to use a place where cocaine base is
manufactured, distributed and used, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§§ 846, 841(a)(1)(A), and
856(a)(1). After seven days of jury trial, Mr. Graham pleaded guilty. Although he
subsequently moved to withdraw his guilty plea, the district court denied his request and
sentenced him to 300 months’ imprisonment. Mr. Graham timely appealed the district
court’s November 7, 2005 judgment. He challenged the denial of his motion to withdraw
his guilty plea. See United States v. Graham, 466 F.3d 1234 (10th Cir. 2006).
On May 30, 2006, while his direct appeal was pending, Mr. Graham filed a
pleading entitled “Motion to Vacate FRCivP Rule 60 (b)(4) by Restricted Appearance and
Special Visitation.” He claimed that the criminal judgment was void ab initio because:
(1) the United States of America is an entity separate from the United States, thus the
United States of America did not have standing to prosecute him; (2) the court committed
fraud on him by prosecuting him under admiralty and maritime jurisdiction instead of
criminal jurisdiction as represented to him; (3) the federal scheme impermissibly fosters
“class discrimination” by systematically excluding “State” citizens (as distinct from
“federal” citizens) from serving on grand juries and trial juries; and (4) the indictment
failed to state a claim.
Although Mr. Graham filed his motion in his original criminal case, the court clerk
opened a civil case on receipt of Mr. Graham’s motion. Before denying his motion on the
Appellate Case: 06-8092 Document: 010140280 Date Filed: 09/26/2007 Page: 2
merits, the district court first noted that the court clerk misinterpreted the import of Mr.
Graham’s Rule 60(b) motion by classifying it as one brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
Therefore, the court dismissed the civil case without prejudice. Second, the district court
denied Mr. Graham’s Rule 60(b) motion finding that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
did not apply in criminal cases. The court referred Mr. Graham to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for
guidance regarding the appropriate means for raising his challenges.
On August 3, 2006, Mr. Graham filed a pleading entitled “Motion for
Reconsideration and Declaratory Judgment” which the court denied, on October 23,
2006. Not satisfied, Mr. Graham subsequently filed a “Motion for Default Judgment”
which the court likewise denied.
Mr. Graham filed his notice of appeal on November 3, 2006 challenging the
district court’s “denial of his Motion to Vacate Judgement [sic] ab initio, pursuant to Fed
Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 60(b)(4).” See R. Vol. I, Doc. 10, at 1 (Notice of Appeal,
dated November 3, 2006.)
We accept, as did the district court, Mr. Graham’s characterization of his motion as
one filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b). As an initial matter, we
agree with the district court that Rule 60(b) is not applicable in criminal cases. See
United States v. Fair, 326 F.3d 1317, 1318 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curium); United States v.
Mosavi, 138 F.3d 1365, 1366 (11th Cir. 1998) (per curium). However, we conclude that
the district court did not have jurisdiction to deny Mr. Graham’s Rule 60(b) motion on
Appellate Case: 06-8092 Document: 010140280 Date Filed: 09/26/2007 Page: 3
In his response to a government filing, Mr. Graham wrote, “[t]he face of [the] 1
Rule 60(b) Motion states specifically said Motion is a Rule 60(b) not a 28 USC, § 2255
[motion]. A 28 USC, § 2255 Motion would be untimely because of the ongoing direct
appeal.” R. Vol. I, Doc. 5, at 2 (Petitioner’s Response to Government’s Motion to
Dismiss Petitioner’s Motion to Vacate, filed June 13, 2006.)
this, or any, basis.
“The filing of a notice of appeal [pursuant to Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
3] is an event of jurisdictional significance – it confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals
and divests the district court of its control over those aspects of the case involved in the
appeal.” Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982) (per
curium); United States v. Meyers, 95 F.3d 1475, 1489 n.6 (10th Cir. 1996). Further, Rule
60(b) is not an independent source of jurisdiction. United States v. Ramirez, 211 Fed.
Appx. 712, 714 (10th Cir. 2007) (unpublished); United States v. Triplett, 166 Fed. Appx.
362, 365-66 (10th Cir. 2006) (unpublished).
Lacking jurisdiction to entertain the Rule 60(b) motion, the district court could
have either dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction, or recharacterized it as a motion
cognizable under the federal criminal rules. Triplett, 166 Fed. Appx. at 366.
Recharacterization of the latter type would have been futile: no post-judgment motion
under a relevant federal criminal rule would have afforded Mr. Graham any relief
“because of time limits and subject matter.” Id. And another possible avenue of
recharacterization – recharacterization to a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 – was
foreclosed by Mr. Graham’s specific contrary request. Therefore, the only appropriate 1
Appellate Case: 06-8092 Document: 010140280 Date Filed: 09/26/2007 Page: 4
course of action open to the district court was to dismiss Mr. Graham’s motion for lack of
jurisdiction. But it did not follow this course. We rectify its error on appeal.
Because the district court did not have jurisdiction to deny Mr. Graham’s Rule
60(b) motion, we vacate the district court’s order denying the motion and direct the
district court to dismiss it.
Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is VACATED, and
the case is REMANDED for entry of an order dismissing for lack of jurisdiction Mr.
Graham’s Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion.