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Unofficial Opinion 94-10

Unofficial Opinion 94-10

August 10, 1994
To: 

District Attorney
Atlantic Judicial Circuit

Re: 

Inasmuch as Fort Stewart remains in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, the Juvenile Court of Liberty County does not have jurisdiction over juveniles who have allegedly committed delinquent acts on the military base.

This is in response to your request for my opinion as to whether the Juvenile Court of Liberty County has jurisdiction to try delinquency cases in which the delinquent act is committed by a juvenile on the Fort Stewart military reservation. For the following reasons, I have concluded that the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction over delinquency matters occurring on this base.

Article I, § 8, cl. 17 of the United States Constitution provides that Congress shall have the power: "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever . . . over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings . . . ." Pursuant to this provision, "Congress may acquire derivative legislative power from a State . . . by consensual acquisition of land, or by nonconsensual acquisition followed by the State's subsequent cession of legislative authority over the land." Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529, 542 (1976) (citations omitted). In either event, a "State may condition its 'consent' upon its retention of jurisdiction over the lands consistent with the federal use." Paul v. United States, 371 U.S. 245, 265 (1963); James v. Dravo Contracting

Co., 302 U.S. 134, 146-49 (1937). Consequently, the legislative jurisdiction acquired may range from exclusive federal jurisdiction with no residual state power, to concurrent, or partial, federal legislative jurisdiction, which may allow the state to exercise certain authority. Kleppe, supra.

In accordance with Art. I, § 8, cl. 17, the State of Georgia has given its consent "to the acquisition by the United States, by purchase, condemnation, or otherwise, of any lands in this state which have been or may be acquired for sites for customs houses, courthouses, post offices, or for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings." O.C.G.A. § 50-2-22. The state has also ceded to the United States exclusive jurisdiction in and over any land acquired by it as provided in O.C.G.A. § 50-2-22, on the following conditions: (1) the state retains jurisdiction to perfect service upon such lands of all civil and criminal process of the courts of the state; (2) the jurisdiction so ceded shall continue no longer than the United States shall own such land; (3) the state retains its civil and criminal jurisdiction over persons and citizens in the ceded territory, as over other persons and citizens in this state, except as to any ceded territory owned by the United States and used by the Department of Defense or used by the Department of Justice for certain purposes; and (4) the state retains jurisdiction over the taxation of private property and the regulation of public utility services in any ceded territory. O.C.G.A. § 50-2-23.

In construing this Code Section, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld juvenile court jurisdiction over a juvenile charged with criminal trespass on a construction site of a United States Post Office, but noted that "[u]nder OCGA [sic] § 50-2-23, the state retains criminal jurisdiction over persons for state offenses committed on property that has been acquired by the United States, except for property used by the Department of Defense and by the Department of Justice." In the Interest of A.W.G., 184 Ga. App. 343, 344 (1987), quoting Jackson v. State, 183 Ga. App. 594, 595 (1987); see also Brittain v. Reid, 220 Ga. 794, 798-99 (1965) (question of whether taxis may be operated at Fort Gordon is for military authorities and not for courts of this state).

In order for such a cession of jurisdiction to become effective, the United States must indicate its acceptance by filing a notice with the Governor of the state in which the land is situated. 40 U.S.C. § 255; Adams v. United States, 319 U.S. 312 (1943); Dobbins v. State, 114 Ga. App. 403 (1966); see O.C.G.A. § 50-2-24; DeKalb County, Georgia v. Beck Co., 382 F.2d 992 (5th Cir. 1967). You have informed me that acceptance of federal jurisdiction over Fort Stewart was accomplished by a letter dated September 25, 1953, from the Secretary of the Army to then-Governor Herman Talmadge, in which the Governor was notified that the United States accepts "exclusive jurisdiction" over the Fort Stewart military reservation. Thus, the "crucial question" of whether the state has ceded, and the federal government has accepted, "exclusive jurisdiction over the fort" appears to have been answered here, as in earlier cases, in the affirmative. See Humble Pipe Line Co. v. Waggonner, 376 U.S. 369, 372 (1964) (Barksdale Air Force Base); Fort Leavenworth R.R. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525 (1885) (Fort Leavenworth). Of course, "[w]hether the United States has acquired exclusive jurisdiction over a federal enclave is a federal question." Paul v. United States, supra at 267; see also Silas Mason Co. v. Tax Commission, 302 U.S. 186, 197 (1937). Nevertheless, because I think the federal courts would concur with my assessment, I shall assume, for purposes of this opinion, that the federal jurisdiction over Fort Stewart is exclusive, subject to the conditions reserved in O.C.G.A. § 50-2-23, which are insufficient to diminish that exclusivity. Waggonner, supra.

The United States Supreme Court has made it "clear that the grant of 'exclusive' legislative power to Congress over enclaves that meet the requirements of Art. I, § 8, cl. 17, by its own weight, bars state regulation without specific congressional action." Paul v. United States, supra at 263. In addition to the Georgia cases cited above, a long line of opinions of this office are consistent with this position. See, e.g., 1981 Op. Att'y Gen. 81-83 (State Patrol does not have authority to enforce traffic laws on highways running through Fort Benning); 1978 Op. Att'y Gen. 78-67 (State Board of Education is without authority to regulate post-secondary educational institutions on military bases); 1975 Op. Att'y Gen. 75-97 (coroner has no authority to sign death certificate of civilian who died at Fort Benning); 1976 Op. Att'y Gen. 76-13 (United States Magistrate has criminal jurisdiction to enforce DUI laws at Fort Stewart).

It is true that "the relationship between federal enclaves and the States in which they are located has changed considerably" in the last few decades. Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 423 (1970). Congress has permitted the states to extend important aspects of state powers over federal areas. Id.; Howard v. Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, 344 U.S. 624, 627 (1953); See, e.g., 4 U.S.C. § 104-110 (states may levy and collect their income, gasoline, sales, and use taxes on federal enclaves); 26 U.S.C. § 3305(d); 40 U.S.C. § 290 (state unemployment and workers' compensation laws likewise apply to persons who live and work in federal areas). In other instances, it is my understanding that, prior to the 1992 amendments to the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5106a, there were letters of agreement between the federal and state governments which allowed state agencies to conduct child abuse investigations on military bases and to initiate state juvenile court proceedings regarding such abused children. Nevertheless, some sort of affirmative federal authorization is still required before the state can properly exercise such jurisdiction. Therefore, the next question is whether the federal government has authorized Georgia to exercise juvenile court jurisdiction over children who commit delinquent acts on military bases.

In the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 [JJPDA] (Pub. L. No. 93-415, 88 Stat. 1109 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 5611 et seq.)), Congress created a special office within the Department of Justice to administer grants and other assistance to the states in an effort to stem the tide of juvenile crime. In addition, the federal criminal code was amended to establish delinquency procedures similar to those in many state juvenile court codes, as well as provisions for trying juveniles as adults under certain circumstances. Id.; 18 U.S.C. § 5031 et seq. The JJPDA provides that juveniles alleged to have committed delinquent acts shall not be proceeded against in any court of the United States unless the United States Attorney General certifies that, inter alia, the state authorities do not have, or refuse to assume, jurisdiction over the juvenile or that the state does not have available programs and services adequate for the needs of juveniles. 18 U.S.C. § 5032. If the state can and will assume jurisdiction over the juvenile and it would be in the best interest of the United States and the juvenile for the state to do so, the United States Attorney may surrender the juvenile to the state authorities. 18 U.S.C. §§ 5001, 5032; In the Interest of D.B.S., 349 A.2d 105 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1975). "If an alleged juvenile delinquent is not surrendered to the authorities of a State . . . any proceedings against him shall be in an appropriate district court of the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 5032.

At first blush, it might appear that these provisions contemplate having the states handle most delinquency proceedings. However, the cases make it clear that this is not necessarily so, and, more importantly, that the need for demonstration of state jurisdiction is not an idle requirement. For example, in United States v. Daye, 696 F.2d 1305 (11th Cir. 1983), a minor defendant appealed his convictions for three counts of assault which occurred on Indian land in the Everglades National Park. Even though the State of Florida had been granted, and accepted, specific jurisdiction over Indians in the state, the Eleventh Circuit said that "because the Everglades National Park remains in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, Florida has not and cannot extend its jurisdiction to cover Indian lands located within the Park." Id. at 1307; See United States v. Juvenile Male, 939 F.2d 321 (6th Cir. 1991) (Kentucky juvenile court had no jurisdiction over juvenile who committed a sexual assault at Fort Knox military reservation).

Despite the fact that its legislative history indicates Congress believed that juvenile crime or delinquency "is essentially a State and local problem which must be dealt with by the State and local governments," 1974 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5286, nothing in the JJPDA, or in any other source of which I am aware, evinces federal intent for Georgia to independently exercise jurisdiction over delinquency matters on military bases such as Fort Stewart. Therefore, because Fort Stewart remains in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government and because there is no federal statute or other agreement on point, the state has not and cannot extend its jurisdiction over the military reservation. United States v. Daye, supra.

In conclusion, it is my unofficial opinion that inasmuch as Fort Stewart remains in the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, the Juvenile Court of Liberty County does not have jurisdiction over juveniles who have allegedly committed delinquent acts on the military base.

Prepared by:

CAROL ATHA COSGROVE
Senior Assistant Attorney General