UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
December 22, 2010
ERIK ANDERSON, PETITIONER,
UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge
Petitioner Erik Anderson,*fn1 proceeding pro se, seeks a writ of habeas corpus. He is currently incarcerated in the D.C. Central Detention Facility pursuant to a supervised release violation. Mr. Anderson contends that he should be released because the supervised release violation warrant and the revocation procedures violated the separation of powers doctrine. Respondents, the U.S. Parole Commission and Simon Wainwright (warden of the D.C. Central Detention Facility), oppose.*fn2 Because the law does not support Mr. Anderson's argument, his petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied.
Mr. Anderson was convicted of carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. On October 5, 2006, he was sentenced in Superior Court*fn3 to a one-year term of imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. He was released from prison and put on supervised release on August 15, 2007.
On May 5, 2009, the U.S. Parole Commission issued a supervised release violation warrant, charging Mr. Anderson with violating the conditions of his release by (1) failing to submit to drug testing; (2) using dangerous and habit-forming drugs; (3) violating a special condition (drug aftercare); and (4) committing various traffic law violations. The warrant was executed, and Petitioner was taken into custody on June 29, 2009.
On July 2, 2009, a U.S. Parole Commission hearing was held, and the hearing examiner found probable cause on all of the violation charges. That same day, Mr. Anderson signed an "Advance Consent to Expedited Revocation Decision," whereby he accepted revocation of his supervised release in return for a sentence on the revocation at the bottom of the reparole guideline range. On July 30, 2009, the Commission revoked Petitioner's term of supervised release and sentenced him to prison for an eight-month term, to be followed by a twenty-eight month term of supervised release. On February 26, 2010, Petitioner was released from prison and put on supervised release.
Shortly thereafter, on May 25, 2010, the Commission again issued a supervised release violation warrant. This time, the warrant charged Mr. Anderson with violating the conditions of his release by refusing to participate in the recommended drug abuse treatment. Mr. Anderson then appeared to become compliant, as his drug testing yielded negative results and he submitted to outpatient drug treatment. Thus, the Commission withdrew the warrant on June 9, 2010, and continued Mr. Anderson on supervision.
Two months later, on August 12, 2010, the Commission yet again issued a supervised release violation warrant. This time, the warrant charged Mr. Anderson with violating the conditions of his release by (1) refusing to participate in the recommended drug abuse treatment; (2) using dangerous and habit-forming drugs; and (3) violating the law by carrying a pistol without a license, possession of a weapon by a prohibited person, and unlawful possession of ammunition. The warrant was executed, and Petitioner was taken into custody on October 6, 2010. On October 8, 2010, a U.S. Parole Commission hearing was held, and the hearing examiner found probable cause on all of the violation charges. In the midst of this last request for revocation of supervised release, Mr. Anderson filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 26, 2010.*fn4
Mr. Anderson seeks his release, claiming that the "Supervised Release Statute under D.C. Code 24-403.01 violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine in that the provision gives the U.S. Parole Commission (USPC) the same power as is vested in the Courts." Pet. [Dkt. #1] at 1. Settled law holds to the contrary.
Parole and supervised release revocation are not part of a criminal prosecution. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972). "Morrissey makes clear that parole revocation is not the continuation of a criminal trial but a separate administrative proceeding at which the parolee does not possess the same rights as a criminal defendant at trial." Maddox v. Elzie, 238 F.3d 437, 445 (D.C. Cir. 2001). The Commission has no authority to impose a prison sentence on a D.C. Code offender after conviction of a crime; this power rests with the Superior Court. See D.C. Code § 11-923(b). Instead, the Commission has authority to determine the conditions of supervised release and to decide whether supervised release should be revoked for violating those conditions. See National Capital Revitalization and Self -Government Improvement Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33, § 11231(a)(1), 111 Stat. 712, 745 (effective Aug. 5, 1998); D.C. Code § 24-131.
For most purposes, supervised release is the functional equivalent of parole and the law pertaining to the revocation of parole is applicable to the revocation of supervised release. See, e.g., U.S. v. Armstrong, 187 F.3d 392, 394 (4th Cir. 1999); Colts v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 531 F. Sup 2d 8, 13 n.4 (D.D.C. 2008). Further, the constitutional authority of a parole agency to detain a parolee and to return the parolee to prison upon an order revoking parole is well-established. "The decision as to when a lawfully sentenced defendant shall actually be released has been committed . . . to the discretion of the Parole Commission." U.S. v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 188 (1979). A parole commission's exercise of authority does not violate separation of powers or usurp the judicial function. Simpson v. Ortiz, 995 F.2d 606, 610-11 (5th Cir. 1993); Geraghty v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 719 F.2d 1199, 1212 (3d Cir. 1983); Artex v. Mulcrone, 673 F.2d 1169, 1170 (10th Cir. 1982); Leach v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 522 F. Supp. 2d 250, 251 (D.D.C. 2007).
In sum, because the Commission has the authority to determine the conditions of supervised release and to decide whether supervised release should be revoked for violating those conditions, and because the separation of powers doctrine is not violated by the exercise of this authority, Mr. Anderson's petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied. A memorializing Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.