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Reynolds v. Husk

August 28, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton, United States District Judge



In this action that has been filed pro se, plaintiff, a District of Columbia prisoner currently confined at the United States Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana, sues Stephen J. Husk, an examiner for the United States Parole Commission. In what is essentially a challenge to parole proceedings, plaintiff alleges that Husk "was wrongfully negligent in denying plaintiff parole" following his initial parole hearing on August 28, 1999, and claims that Husk violated his rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. Complaint at 1. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Husk erroneously relied on his prior convictions that are more than ten years old and overlooked "important information" he offered at the hearing. Complaint at 1-2. Plaintiff seeks $835,000 in damages and a new parole hearing or release to supervised parole. *fn1 Id at 7.

Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b) on grounds of absolute or qualified immunity, improper service of process, lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition, to the extent he is being sued in his official capacity, defendant moves to dismiss the complaint against the United States on sovereign immunity grounds. *fn2 The Court will dismiss the complaint against Husk on immunity grounds and finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's damages claim against the United States and therefore will not reach the question of sovereign immunity.


Plaintiff challenges Husk's "faulty decision in determining plaintiff's case." Complaint at 4. Although the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has not decided the immunity question presented here, "[m]ost federal courts . . . have consistently held that parole board members are absolutely immune from suit for their decisions to grant, deny, or revoke parole" because the board's functions are "closely analogous to the adjudicated functions of a judge, or [] intimately associated with the judicial process itself." Walrath v. United States, 35 F.3d 277, 281 (7th Cir. 1994) (collecting cases from the First, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth circuits) (other citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Montero v. Travis, 171 F.3d 757, 761 (2nd Cir. 1999) (collecting cases additionally from the Tenth and Eleventh circuits) ("we join our sister circuits and hold directly that parole board officials, like judges, are entitled to absolute immunity from suit for damages when they serve a quasi-adjudicative function in deciding whether to grant, deny or revoke parole."). The Court discerns no reason to depart from the holdings of every circuit that has addressed the issue and therefore concludes that Husk is entitled to absolute immunity.

To the extent the complaint may be construed as a suit for damages against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671-2680 (1994), the Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over that claim. A tort claim against the United States for money damages must be "first presented . . . to the appropriate Federal agency." 28 U.S.C. § 2675 (a). *fn3 The exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in federal court. See GAF Corp. v. United States, 818 F.2d 901, 917-20 (D.C. Cir. 1987); Jackson v. United States, 730 F.2d 808, 809 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Plaintiff has not alleged that he exhausted administrative remedies available to him and the record does not support a finding that he has done so. Therefore, the FTCA claim must be dismissed.

Plaintiff also seeks injunctive relief in the form of a new parole hearing or his release to supervised release. His remedy lies, if at all, in a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (1994). See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500 (1973) (habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for challenges to the fact or duration of one's confinement); accord Chatman-Bey v. Thornburgh, 864 F.2d 804, 806-9, 813-14 (D.C. Cir. 1988); Razzoli v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 230 F.3d 371, 376 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (confirming continued vitality of Chatman-Bey to prisoners in federal custody). Habeas corpus claims are properly pursued against the petitioner's warden, Blair-Bey v. Quick, 151 F.3d 1036, 1039 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (citation omitted), in the judicial district having personal jurisdiction over the warden, Razzoli, supra, at 376. Accordingly, the District of Columbia is not the proper federal district where plaintiff can pursue a habeas action.

For the reasons stated above, the Court grants defendant's motion to dismiss. *fn4


For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is ORDERED that defendant's motion to dismiss [# 9] is GRANTED; it is FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are DENIED; and it is FURTHER ORDERED that ...

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