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Eric Lewis v. U.S. Parole Commission et al

March 18, 2011


Re Document Nos.: 17, 21




The pro se plaintiff, a prisoner currently incarcerated in a federal penitentiary, alleges that the United States Parole Commission ("USPC"), the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court"), the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia ("CSOSA") and the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") (collectively, "the defendants") are "maintain[ing] incorrect information in [his] inmate files" in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. The plaintiff argues that the defendants' failure to accurately maintain his records has resulted in the USPC unfairly denying him parole. The matter is now before the court upon the defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and, in the alternative, Rule 12(b)(6). Because the plaintiff was required to bring his Privacy Act claim through a habeas corpus petition, and because the Privacy Act provides the proper vehicle for the plaintiff's constitutional claims, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.


The pro se plaintiff, a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Petersburg, Virginia,*fn1 is serving a twenty-one year sentence after being convicted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia of robbery and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. Compl., Ex. J.1; Def.'s Mot. at 1. At the time that the plaintiff committed this robbery, he was on parole for two separate bank robbery convictions, one arising in the Eastern District of Virginia and the other in the District of Maryland. Compl., Ex. J.1, L.1; see also Lewis v. Stansberry, 2009 WL 3616077, at *1 (E.D. Va. Oct. 30, 2009) (discussing the plaintiff's criminal history).

Since 2002, USPC has denied the plaintiff parole on multiple occasions. See generally Compl. The plaintiff alleges that in deliberating whether to grant him parole, the USPC considered inaccurate information with respect to his criminal history. See generally Compl. Although far from a model for clarity, the plaintiff's complaint indicates that USPC considered the following erroneous information: (1) that the plaintiff was convicted in 1980 for carrying a dangerous weapon and subsequently held for 200 days; (2) that the plaintiff was "under [probation's] supervision in 1981" for a heroin possession conviction; (3) that the plaintiff was convicted of robbery and use of a dangerous weapon in 1992 and (4) that the plaintiff had committed six bank robberies. Id. at 9-10, 12.

According to the plaintiff, the USPC relied on this information during his 2002, 2005 and 2008 parole hearings, all of which resulted in the plaintiff's denial of parole. See generally id. For instance, on March 4, 2005, USPC held a parole hearing and determined that the plaintiff was "a more serious risk" due to his past violent criminal history, including "six Bank Robberies" and a 1992 armed robbery conviction. Id., Ex. I. Likewise, on February 13, 2008, USPC conducted yet another parole hearing and denied the plaintiff parole because he has "a history of committing violent offenses while under supervision" because the plaintiff had "admitted . . . [that he] had committed six bank robberies."*fn2 Id., Ex. M.

In April 2010, the plaintiff commenced this action, asserting that "[USPC's] acceptance of and reliance on allegedly inaccurate information contain[ed] in files on him has adversely [a]ffected his ability to be judge[d] fairly at parole hearings in 2002, 2005 and 2008." Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. The plaintiff's complaint alleges that the defendants have deliberately maintained inaccurate files in violation of the Privacy Act and the Constitution, and seeks $10,000,000 in damages. Compl. at 2; Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File Am. Compl., Ex. 1 ("Proposed Am. Compl.") at 1. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, arguing that the plaintiff must raise his claims in a habeas petition as opposed to the instant action. See generally Def.'s Mot. With the motion now ripe for adjudication, the court turns to the parties' arguments and the applicable legal standards.


A. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The complaint need only set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, giving the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040(D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Such simplified notice pleading is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pretrial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47-48 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint, Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14 (2002), or "plead law or match facts to every element of a legal theory," Krieger v. Fadely, 211 F.3d 134, 136 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Yet, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562 (2007) (abrogating the oft-quoted language from Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, instructing courts not to dismiss for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that "no set of facts in support of his claim [] would entitle him to relief"). A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must treat the complaint's factual allegations -- including mixed questions of law and fact -- as true and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. Holy Land Found. for Relief & Dev. v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 156, 165 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Browning, 292 F.3d at 242. While many well-pleaded complaints are conclusory, the court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Warren v. Dist. of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2004); Browning, 292 F.3d at 242. "Threadbare ...

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