Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Iguaran: Parties' stipulation cannot establish subject matter jurisdiction

In U.S. v. Iguaran, No. 15-13659 (May 12, 2016), the Court, on plain error review, held that the government failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction to support its conviction for conspiring to distribute cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. In his plea agreement, Iguaran agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to possess cocaine “with individuals who were on board a vessel that was subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.” The government argued that this statement, without more, constituted an admission of jurisdiction. The Court rejected this argument because parties may not stipulate jurisdiction. Parties can stipulate to facts that bear on jurisdiction, but Iguaran did not do so here. A co-defendant agreed to facts bearing on jurisdiction, for example, that no defendant when apprehended “made a claim of nationality,” but this co-defendant’s admission in another case was irrelevant to Iguara’s case. The Court therefore remanded the case, giving the government an opportunity to prove that subject matter jurisdiction exists.