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Toor v. Holder

June 15, 2010

PAVANDEEP TOOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Pavandeep Toor, a Canadian citizen serving a 35-month federal prison sentence at Moshannon Valley Correctional Institution in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, claims that the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ") prevented him from applying for transfer to a Canadian prison as he had sought to do pursuant to international treaties and the Transfer of Offenders To or From Foreign Countries Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 4100-4115. He has sued defendant, alleging that its process for reviewing his transfer application violated international treaties, the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,*fn1 and the notice-and-comment provisions of Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 561-570. Defendant now moves to dismiss Toor's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant this motion.

BACKGROUND

On August 27, 2009, after pleading guilty in the Eastern District of California to drug trafficking charges, plaintiff was sentenced to serve 35 months in federal prison. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mot."), Ex. C at 2-3 (Public Information Inmate Data).) On October 20, the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") took custody of Toor -- who, until then, had been in the custody of the United States Marshals Service -- and moved him to Moshannon Valley Correctional Institution ("Moshannon Valley") in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. (Id. at 1.)

Eight days later, on October 28, 2009, Toor filed suit in this Court, alleging that defendant "prevented Toor from applying . . . in a timely fashion" to be transferred to a Canadian prison for the remainder of his sentence. (Compl. at 1 ¶ 1.) Plaintiff alleges that DOJ's transfer application procedure conflicts with international treaties to which the United States is signatory and with the APA. (Id. at 6-7 ¶¶ 12-14, 18-20.) He requests an injunction requiring DOJ to review his transfer application and to align the regulations governing international prisoner transfers with the relevant treaties and with the APA. (Id. at 7 ¶¶ 1-2.)

After filing his complaint, Toor met with BOP-provided case workers to express his interest in transfer to Canada; thereafter, he submitted his transfer application to the warden at Moshannon Valley. (Decl. of Sandra Kaz ¶ 6.) The application was received by BOP's Central Office on December 10, 2009, forwarded to DOJ's International Prisoner Transfer Unit ("IPTU") the same day, and denied on January 12, 2010. (Id.;Decl. of Paula Wolff & 6.) IPTU then notified its Canadian counterpart in Ottawa, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, and plaintiff's counsel of its decision. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. D at 1.)

Defendant subsequently moved to dismiss, arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, that the transfer application process does not violate international treaties or the APA, and that the complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Def.'s Mot. at 1-2.)

ANALYSIS

I. MOOTNESS

Defendant argues that this matter is moot, and that the Court therefore does not have jurisdiction to decide the case. The Court agrees.

"Federal courts lack jurisdiction to decide moot cases because their constitutional authority extends only to actual cases or controversies." Iron Arrow Honor Soc' y v. Heckler, 464 U.S. 67, 70 (1983). The case or controversy requirement "means that, throughout the litigation, the plaintiff must have suffered, or be threatened with, an actual injury traceable to the defendant and likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision." Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Even where litigation poses a live controversy when filed, the [mootness] doctrine requires a federal court to refrain from deciding it if events have so transpired that the decision will neither presently affect the parties' rights nor have a more-than-speculative chance of affecting them in the future." Clarke v. United States, 915 F.2d 699, 701 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). An intervening event may render a claim moot if there is no reasonable expectation that the conduct will recur. Pharmachemie B.V. v. Barr Labs., Inc., 276 F.3d 627, 631 (D.C. Cir. 2002). "Simply stated, a case is moot when the issues presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome." Larsen v. U.S. Navy, 525 F.3d 1, 3 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

Plaintiff seeks to have defendant "accept and process" his application for transfer to Canada. (Compl. at 7 ¶ 1.) When plaintiff commenced this action, he had not yet been able to submit his transfer application. By the time defendant filed its motion to dismiss, IPTU had processed the application, denied it, explained the decision, and notified plaintiff's counsel. No live controversy remains, because plaintiff can no longer claim the harm of an unresolved transfer request. Therefore, a decision in this case could not affect the parties' rights, and the controversy is moot.*fn2

Plaintiff argues that the case fits into two exceptions to the mootness doctrine: "capable of repetition, yet evading review" and "voluntary cessation." Broadly, these exceptions provide that "if a plaintiff's specific claim has been mooted, [plaintiff] may nevertheless seek declaratory relief forbidding an agency from imposing a disputed policy in the future." Nat' l Air Traffic Controllers Ass' n v. Fed' l Serv. Impasses Panel, No. 08-5479, 2010 WL 2160832, at *6 (D.C. Cir. June 1, 2010) (quoting City of Houston v. Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev., 24 F.3d 1421, 1429 (D.C. Cir. 1994). ...


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