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07/31/90 JIMMY J. VAUGHN v. UNITED STATES

July 31, 1990

JIMMY J. VAUGHN, APPELLANT
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Joseph M.F. Ryan, Jr., Trial Judge

Rogers, Chief Judge, Newman and Belson, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Newman

Jimmy J. Vaughn appeals from the dismissal of his pro se motion, in which he challenged his transfer from Lorton to a county prison facility in Texas and alleged violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The trial court dismissed Vaughn's motion on jurisdictional grounds. Although we find that the trial court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over Vaughn's claims, we nonetheless affirm the dismissal of his motion challenging transfer, on grounds that he fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and of his Eighth Amendment claims, on grounds of mootness, failure to join what appear to be necessary parties, and failure to allege the deprivation of his constitutional rights with specificity.

I

In 1983, Vaughn was convicted by a jury of four counts of armed robbery and one count of carrying a pistol without a license. Vaughn was sentenced to consecutive terms of five-to-fifteen years on each armed robbery count and two-to-six years on the pistol charge. Vaughn appealed his conviction to this court, and we affirmed. Vaughn then challenged his sentence and after his motion to reduce sentence was dismissed by Judge Ryan, we again affirmed.

On February 6, 1989, Vaughn was transferred from Lorton to a correctional facility in Frio County, Texas. On February 15, 1989, Vaughn filed a hand-written pro se "Motion under 28 U.S.C. 2255" with Judge Ryan challenging his transfer from Lorton to the Frio County facility and alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights were being violated by the conditions of his confinement there. Vaughn demanded transfer back to Lorton.

In an Order dated March 1, 1989, the court dismissed Vaughn's "motion filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255" on jurisdictional grounds and without a hearing. Vaughn filed a pro se notice of appeal on March 6, 1989, charming that the trial court had erred by (1) failing to appoint counsel ; *fn1 (2) failing to conduct a hearing on Vaughn's motion before dismissal; *fn2 (3) failing to make findings of fact and Conclusions of law in his Order dismissing Vaughn's pleading; *fn3 and (4) concluding that the court lacked jurisdiction over the claims stated in the complaint.

We appointed counsel to represent Vaughn on appeal. After oral argument on April 23, 1990, we ordered both sides to submit supplemental memoranda on the issue of whether Vaughn has joined all necessary parties for the trial court to afford him the relief he seeks pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982). In his Supplemental Memorandum, appellant's counsel informs us that since the time of oral argument, Vaughn has been transferred back to Lorton, where he is presently confined.

II

Prisoner pro se complaints must be construed liberally in favor of the plaintiff, see, e.g., Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 10, 101 S. Ct. 173, 66 L. Ed. 2d 163 (1980) (per curiam). Although styled as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1988), Vaughn's pleading, liberally construed, contains two complaints. One part of his pleading challenges the legality of his transfer from Lorton to the Frio County facility. The other portion of his pleading invokes 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to allege the violation of several of his Eighth Amendment rights, including access to the courts and access to adequate medical treatment.

The sufficiency of a complaint presents a question of law; therefore, our standard of review is de novo. Davis v. United States, 564 A.2d 31, 35 (D.C. 1989); United States v. Felder, 548 A.2d 57, 61 (D.C. 1988). De novo review requires us to make an original review of the record and from that review to reach an independent judgment. Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of the United States, Inc., 466 U.S. 485, 514 n. 31, 104 S. Ct. 1949, 80 L. Ed. 2d 502 (1984); Felder, supra, 548 A.2d at 61. Thus, as is the case when we review a motion for summary judgment, Holland v. Hannan, 456 A.2d 807, 814 (D.C. 1983), our standard of review is the same as the standard applied by the trial court when it originally considered the sufficiency of Vaughn's complaint. Moreover, since Super. Ct. Civ. R. 52 (a) does not require the trial court to issue findings of fact or Conclusions of law on motions under Rule 12 (b), this court must, as a practical matter, conduct an independent review of the record whenever the trial court, as was the case here, grants a motion to dismiss without issuing findings of fact or Conclusions of law. Finally, we note that, "as we have held on numerous occasions, this court may affirm a decision for reasons other than those given by the trial court." Garrett v. Washington Air Compressor Co., Inc., 466 A.2d 462, 464 n.5 (D.C. 1983) (citations omitted).

Vaughn's transfer claim.

In his complaint, Vaughn expressly invokes 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to challenge his transfer from Lorton to the Frio County facility. The trial court dismissed this claim on jurisdictional grounds: Since the court has jurisdiction over an action challenging the lawfulness of Vaughn's transfer, it was error to dismiss Vaughn's motion on jurisdictional grounds.

Although we conclude that there was no jurisdictional basis for the dismissal of Vaughn's motion challenging the transfer, we nevertheless affirm the dismissal on the ground that Vaughn fails ...


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