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Pate v. United States

July 23, 2003


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


Plaintiff, Anthony Pate, brings this action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1971, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000) and on District of Columbia ("D.C.") common law grounds. Both claims are predicated on plaintiff's proposition that the defendants violated his constitutional rights when they failed to provide him with a timely parole revocation hearing. The defendants named in the complaint include: the District of Columbia, the local entity responsible for operating the now defunct D.C. Parole Board; Margaret Quick, Chairman of the D.C. Parole Board at all times relevant to this proceeding; Jasper Clay and Michael Green, members of the D.C. Parole Board also during times relevant to this proceeding; and the United States as the"federal entity having created the United States Parole Commission." Compl. ¶ 8.*fn1 Currently before the Court are defendants District of Columbia's and Margaret Quick's motion to dismiss the claims that have been filed against them. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny defendant District of Columbia's motion and grant defendant Quick's motion.

I. Factual Background

According to the allegations of the complaint, which is far from a model of clarity, plaintiff has been the subject of several criminal prosecutions. In one of those matters he was"sentenced to a period of incarceration by a District of Columbia Superior Court judge several years ago" for a crime he fails to identify; he was subsequently released on parole from this sentence. Compl. ¶ 9. Thereafter, plaintiff contends that he was incarcerated for two parole violations,"neither of which were sustained[,]" and he was"most recently released [prior to the events at issue] in November 1997." Id.

Apparently plaintiff managed to avoid any further legal troubles after his 1997 release until September 2, 1999, when, as directed by his parole officer, he met with several Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") detectives concerning the murder of his brother. Id. ¶ 11. At that time, plaintiff was arrested and charged in Superior Court case number"F-6483-99 [with] first degree murder while armed." Id. On September 20, 1999, at plaintiff's"preventive detention hearing[,]" Superior Court Judge Patricia Wynn found that there was probable cause for charging plaintiff with involuntary manslaughter. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was then granted work release privileges on September 21, 1999. Id.

Work release was granted by Judge Wynn because she was apparently unaware that on approximately September 8, 1999, a parole warrant was issued for plaintiff's arrest by the District of Columbia Parole Board ("the D.C. Parole Board" or"the Board")."[T]he warrant was not executed until February 3, 2000[,]" id. ¶ 12, and Superior Court criminal case number F-6483-99 was dismissed for want of prosecution on June 1, 2000. Id. ¶ 11.

Although the homicide case had been dismissed, plaintiff's detention as an alleged parole violator continued thereafter. Id. ¶ 12. Prior to the expiration of its parole authority over plaintiff in August 2000,"[t]he D.C. Parole Board attempted to hold a parole revocation hearing for Mr. Pate on three occasions... [,]June 27, July 19, and August 2, 2000." Id. Each time the hearing was purportedly continued, over plaintiff's objection, because the police officers involved in the matter failed to appear. Id. A fourth hearing was attempted on September 19, 2000, but that hearing was also continued due to the need for additional information from the United States Attorney's Office. Id. From October, 2000, when the United States Parole Commission (the"Parole Commission") assumed parole related responsibility for District of Columbia criminal offenders,*fn2 until April 2001, the Commission failed to take any action regarding plaintiff's pending parole revocation hearing,"despite receiving numerous written and verbal requests for a hearing from [p]laintiff, his family and various attorneys..." Id. ¶ 15.

Upon review of the remaining paragraphs of the complaint, it appears that finally on June 19, 2001, a parole revocation hearing was held, at which time the hearing officer concluded that there had been no parole violation and recommended expedited review of plaintiff's case and plaintiff's immediate release and reinstatement to parole. Id. ¶ 20. Despite the hearing officer's recommendation, plaintiff was eventually released from detention only after filing a writ of habeas corpus with the Parole Commission sometime in early July, 2001. Id. ¶ 23. He was released"within a few days of receipt of the writ request... without a revocation hearing." Id. Plaintiff contends he was"wrongful[ly] incarcerat[ed] from June 1, 2000 to approximately July 14, 2001." Id. ¶ 1.

As indicated, plaintiff has filed a complaint alleging a violation of his statutory rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (count one). In count two of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that the Parole Commission and the District of Columbia committed negligence and gross negligence by their alleged"failure to supervise and enforce policies and procedures..." to ensure that his parole revocation hearing was held in a timely manner. Significant to the motion that is the subject of this opinion is the fact that plaintiff has named Margaret Quick, Chairman of the D.C. Parole Board during the time relevant to these proceedings, and the District of Columbia, as defendants. Plaintiff has brought suit against defendant Quick"in her individual capacity for actions under color of law." Compl. ¶ 5.

II. The Parties' Arguments

Defendants District of Columbia and Quick have filed a motion seeking the dismissal of the complaint as it pertains to them. These defendants argue that the Court should dismiss the claims against them because"plaintiff's due process interest in a revocation hearing was not triggered until June 1, 2000, when his murder charges were dropped[]" and, because on

August 5, 2000, just two months later, the D.C. Parole Board was abolished and the [Parole Commission] assumed all authority over parole matters for D.C. prisoners... the District defendants had no means to ensure the plaintiff's constitutional right to a parole revocation hearing after August 5, 2000, and cannot be held liable for any failure to provide such a hearing after that date.

Defendants' Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss ("Defs.' Mem.") at 8-9. Furthermore, they contend that because plaintiff was held for"just over two months[]" (from June 1, 2000 until August 5, 2000) while parole related authority was vested with them, D.C. and Quick cannot be found as a matter of law to have violated of plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at 9. In addition, defendant Quick argues that she is entitled to absolute immunity because the scheduling of parole hearings is a"quasi-judicial function" and therefore she is absolutely immune from the claims plaintiff has lodged against her. Id.

In his six page opposition to the dismissal motion, three and a half pages which are devoted to recounting the facts as set forth in the complaint, plaintiff's counsel argues that the defendants' motion should be denied as premature because both of the arguments raised by them are"fact oriented" and therefore, resolution of these issues is"not appropriate... prior to any meaningful discovery..." Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant District of Columbia's Motion to Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 1.*fn3 As grounds for his position, plaintiff advances several arguments. First, regarding the claim that holding plaintiff for a period of over two months without conducting a parole revocation hearing is not, as a matter of law, unreasonable and hence not a constitutional violation, plaintiff argues that"[w]hile there is no case on point as to what this jurisdiction considers'reasonable'... [,] with respect to this defendant some 65 days is unreasonable. This [, plaintiff posits,] raises a factual issue as to reasonableness that must [be] decided by the factfinder." Id. at 5. Second, regarding defendant Quick's claims of absolute immunity, plaintiff argues that immunity is only warranted where officials"can prove that their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Id. at 6 (citations omitted). The answer to this question, plaintiff contends,"is a factual issue...[,]" which is not subject to resolution as a matter of law. Id.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of ...

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