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Stern v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

March 20, 2008

RONALD STERN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos.: 6, 10, 14, 21

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT*fn1; FINDING AS MOOT THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY TRANSFER ORDER; DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This case comes back before the court on the defendant's motion to alter or amend the court's earlier decision denying its motion to transfer the case to the Southern District of Georgia. The Federal Bureau of Prisons ("the Bureau" or "the defendant") requests that the court transfer the plaintiff's suit because, unbeknownst to it at the time of its original motion to transfer, the plaintiff had filed an almost identical complaint with this court, which Judge Sullivan sua sponte transferred out of the district. This new revelation does not, however, convince the court to revisit its earlier judgment, and the court denies the defendant's request to alter or amend its judgment.

The Bureau also requests that the court dismiss the plaintiff's complaint for failing to state a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., because the Bureau had authority in 1987 to promulgate the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program ("IFRP"), 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(a)(2), which the plaintiff now challenges. The court concludes, however, that the plaintiff has stated a claim under the APA because he alleges that the Bureau's regulation runs afoul of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act ("MVRA"), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A, which Congress enacted in 1996. Accordingly, the court denies the Bureau's motion to dismiss. Finally, the court denies without prejudice the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment so that the parties may fully refine their arguments.

II. BACKGROUND

On January 21, 2005, Judge Gary A. Feess of the United States District Court for the Central District of California sentenced the plaintiff, Ronald Stern, to 84 months in prison and ordered him to pay $2,139,860.12, later reduced to $1,888,161.62, in restitution under the MVRA, 18 U.S.C. § 3663A. Def.'s Mot. to Alter or Amend J., Mot. to Dismiss, Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot.") at 2, 4. Judge Feess ordered that the plaintiff pay restitution during his incarceration pursuant to the Bureau's IFRP but did not designate a schedule for such payments. Id. at 4. The Bureau enrolled the plaintiff in its IFRP, 28 C.F.R. § 545.11(a)(2), and established a schedule for the plaintiff's payments. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1.

While detained at a correctional facility in Jesup, Georgia, on March 16, 2007, the plaintiff filed a complaint in this court challenging the Bureau's authority to set payment schedules for restitution ordered under the MVRA. Compl. ¶ 1. Specifically, the plaintiff contends that at least part of the IFRP has been rendered invalid by the MVRA, asserting that "the [Bureau's] use of the IFRP to set payment schedules for restitution under the MVRA is . . . in excess of statutory authority because only the courts can set payment schedules for restitution." Id. ¶¶ 2, 8.

Less than a week later, the plaintiff filed an almost identical complaint in this court. See Stern v. BOP, No. 07-564 (D.D.C. 2007). That same day, Judge Sullivan sua sponte issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order transferring that case to the Southern District of Georgia, because venue is more appropriate there. Stern v. BOP, 2007 WL 1555830 (D.D.C. Mar. 22, 2007). On August 3, 2007, the Bureau filed a motion to transfer in this case without mentioning Judge Sullivan's prior decision. On October 15, 2007, the court denied the Bureau's motion because the issues before the court are purely legal and do not affect the length of the defendant's sentence. Mem. Op. (Oct. 15, 2007) at 4-5. One month after the court issued this opinion, the Bureau filed a motion to reconsider the denial of its motion to transfer, bringing to the court's attention for the first time Judge Sullivan's earlier decision to transfer. Def.'s Mot. at

7. This motion also requested that the court dismiss the plaintiff's complaint for failing to state a claim for which relief can be granted. Id. at 9-13. The court now turns to the defendant's requests.

III. ANALYSIS

A. The Court Denies the Defendant's Motion to Alter or ...


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