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April 6, 1993


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Bruce S. Mencher, Motions Judge)

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied October 4, 1993, Vacated October 4, 1993.

Before Rogers, Chief Judge, Schwelb, Associate Judge, and Mack, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers

ROGERS Chief Judge : Appellant Jerome J. Verrett appeals from the denial, without a hearing, of his pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus. D.C. Code § 16-1901 (Repl. 1989). We reverse.


Appellant was convicted of assault with intent to kill while armed and assault with intent to commit robbery while armed, and sentenced to 12 to 36 years for each count, to run concurrently. The sentencing Judge recommended that appellant be sent to a federal prison. Since then appellant has been incarcerated at a number of correctional institutions, all federal except for the Lorton Reformatory, where he had been incarcerated for two months at the time he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In his petition of January 3, 1992, appellant asserted that while at Lorton he has not received a classification study to determine his housing status and custody level in accordance with D.C. statutes and regulations, and that because he has met all the institutional requirements, he qualifies for minimum security. He further alleged that had he been given the benefit of statutory reductions to which he was entitled, he would be eligible for parole in January 1992 instead of September 23, 1992.

On appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred in denying him a hearing on his petition in view of the violations of law by the Department of Corrections and the liberty interest and due process rights that he has pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-442, authorizing the Corrections Department to promulgate rules. He relies generally on Title 24, chapter 23 of the D.C. Code on prisons and prisoners. *fn1 Specifically, he claims that since he has been returned to Lorton he has been in the maximum security facility and that, although he is eligible for less secure confinement, the authorities have not conducted a classification proceeding pursuant to its regulations and departmental orders, *fn2 as well as federal law. *fn3 Because of this lack of classification, he contends, he was bypassed in receiving parole credit for good conduct, D.C. Code § 24-428, educational good time, id. § 24-429, and Emergency Powers Act reductions, id. § 24-902. As a result, he maintains that his parole hearing date, September 23, 1992, is incorrect. He seeks to require the authorities to classify him so he can be in a less restrictive facility, maintaining that he has a statutory and liberty interest in the classification procedures and parole.

The government responds that there is no liberty interest in parole, and that violation of a departmental classification order does not create a liberty interest. By order of January 31, 1992, the motions Judge denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus without a hearing and discharged the show cause order.


The writ of habeas corpus "is not now and never has been a static, narrow, formalistic remedy; its scope has grown to achieve its grand purpose -- the protection of individuals against erosion of their right to be free from wrongful restraints upon their liberty." Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 243, 9 L. Ed. 2d 285, 83 S. Ct. 373 (1963). Under the District's habeas statute, D.C. Code § 16-1901, issuance of the writ is simply a means of bringing the petitioner before the Superior Court for a hearing on the petitioner's claim for relief. See Christian v. United States, 394 A.2d 1, 43 (D.C. 1978), cert. denied, 442 U.S. 944 (1979); Lewis v. Stempson, 737 F. Supp. 667, 669 (D.D.C. 1990). After the hearing, if the court determines that the petitioner's detention is unlawful, the court must grant the relief requested in the petition, including release or conditional release, if appropriate. If the court determines that detention is lawful, the court must deny the relief requested. See Mizell v. Attorney General of New York, 586 F.2d 942, 947 (2d Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 967, 59 L. Ed. 2d 783, 99 S. Ct. 1519 (1970). As the Supreme Court said over forty years ago:

The historic and great usage of the writ, regardless of its particular form, is to produce the body of a person before a court for whatever purpose might be essential to the proper Disposition of a cause. The most important result of such usage has been to afford a swift and imperative remedy in all cases of illegal restraint upon personal liberty.

Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 283, 92 L. Ed. 1356, 68 S. Ct. 1049 (1948) (emphasis added); see Stewart v. Overholser, 87 U.S. App. D.C. 402, 405, 186 F.2d 339, 342, (1950) (en banc) ( proceedings should be conducted with a liberal judicial attitude, given broadly remedial nature of the writ).

In order for a writ of habeas corpus to issue "the facts set forth in the petition make a prima facie case." D.C. Code § 16-1901 (a); United States v. Tuck, 194 U.S. 161, 170, 48 L. Ed. 917, 24 S. Ct. 621 (1904). It is enough if an inmate "present an allegation and supporting facts which, if borne out by proof, would entitle him [or her] to relief." Price, supra, 334 U.S. at 292. Furthermore, because inmates "are often unlearned in the law and unfamiliar with the complicated rules of pleading," and "since they act so often as their own counsel in proceedings, we cannot impose on them the same high standards of the legal art which we might place on the members of the legal profession." Id. Thus, the issue is whether appellant has made out a prima facie case to support his assertion that his due process rights had been violated and hence, that the motions Judge erred in denying the petition and a hearing.

Appellant's classification contention is related to his claim that he is being denied a right to a corrected parole date. First, appellant contends that his liberty interest and due process rights were violated because the correctional authorities did not apply their classification procedures to him and place him in a less restrictive environment. *fn4 Second, he maintains that the failure to classify ...

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