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'Quixotic' Campaign Against Criminal Code

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week slapped hard the knuckles of Texas lawyer M. Engin Derkunt for his persistence in arguing that the entire federal criminal code is void ab initio due to a 1948 procedural mistake by Congress in enacting it. (Short version: The two houses never voted on the identical text.) At his blog Decision of the Day, Robert Loblaw describes U.S. v. Collins as a case in which the circuit "trashes another attorney (and rightly so)." Here is what Judge Richard Posner said about lawyer Derkunt:

Concerning Collins’s appeal, we can be brief. Apart from a perfunctory and indeed frivolous attack on the sufficiency of the evidence, Collins’s lawyer, M. Engin Derkunt of the Texas Bar, devotes his entire brief to arguing that Title 18 -- the federal criminal code -- is unconstitutional because of supposed irregularities in its enactment. We recently described an appeal in which Derkunt made the same argument on behalf of another client as 'unbelievably frivolous.' ... We affirm the judgment against his current client, without prejudice to the client’s seeking post-conviction relief on the ground of ineffective assistance of counsel, and we order Derkunt to show cause why he should not be sanctioned for professional misconduct in this court. We are also sending a copy of this opinion to the Texas Bar disciplinary authorities. His quixotic crusade -- 'Title 18: The U.S. Criminal Code - Void ab initio,' visited Nov. 7, 2007) -- is a profound disservice to his clients.

From the Web site Posner references,,  it appears that Derkunt is not alone in his crusade. The site features a habeas corpus petition filed with the Supreme Court in September by two other lawyers, James W. Parkman of Birmingham, Ala., and Barry A. Bachrach of Leicester, Mass., that makes the same argument that the code is void. An accompanying blog reports that the Supreme Court denied the petition Oct. 26, but the quixotic bunch has petitioned for rehearing. Given their track record in the courts, perhaps they should take their case directly to Congress, where they say the trouble all started in the first place.


Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 17, 2007 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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