Ninth Circuit Notes Possible Split Re Federal Court’s Power to Inquire into Validity of State Court Orders under § 922(g)

Per U.S. v. Young, 458 F.3d 998 (9th Cir. Aug. 17, 2006):

We consider the conditions under which federal criminal law prohibits an individual from possessing a firearm if he is the subject of a state domestic violence restraining order.

. . .

The government contends that the district court wrongly expanded the requirements of § 922(g)(8) beyond the statutory text. Young, however, argues that the statute requires a state court hearing meeting the traditional requirements of due process. This case requires us only to construe § 922(g)(8); we do not consider whether the procedural protections in the underlying Washington DVNC statute satisfy due process.

First, we address Young's argument that "Congress only attached a firearms disability to those individuals who ... have already had a due process hearing." [FN14]

FN14. We note at the outset that there is a Circuit split as to whether § 922(g)(8) requires proof of a valid restraining order. The Fifth Circuit has squarely rejected the contention that a federal court should probe into state proceedings, noting that " 'nothing in section 922(g)(8) suggests that the validity of the particular predicate court order may be inquired into in the section 922(g)(8) criminal prosecution.' " United States v. Hicks, 389 F.3d 514, 534 (5th Cir.2004), cert. denied --- U.S. ----, 126 S.Ct. 1022, 163 L.Ed.2d 853 (2006) (quoting United States v. Emerson, 270 F.3d 203, 213 (5th Cir.2001)). However, the Seventh Circuit's decision in Wilson, 159 F.3d at 289-90, by entertaining a defendant's challenge to the underlying restraining order proceedings, has implicitly concluded that a due process hearing is required. To the extent that the Seventh Circuit intended to adopt this view, we decline to follow it, as explained below, because it appears to be in tension with the Supreme Court's decision in Lewis.

Young argues that the Sixth Circuit has also followed Wilson in United States v. Calor, 340 F.3d 428, 431 (6th Cir.2003). We disagree. Calor did not endorse the Seventh Circuit's view that the defendant could challenge the constitutionality of the state court proceedings in federal court. Rather, it interpreted the statute itself and then noted that its result was "consistent with that of the Seventh Circuit." Id.


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