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Bruce E. Void-El v. Terry O'brien

September 12, 2011

BRUCE E. VOID-EL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TERRY O'BRIEN, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Boasberg United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Bruce Void-El has brought this action seeking to obtain good-time credits in order to reduce his murder sentence. Although the pleading and procedural history is somewhat tortuous, the Court ultimately finds that, as venue here is improper, the case should be dismissed.

I.Background

Approximately twenty years ago in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, a jury found Plaintiff guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute PCP and cocaine and of first-degree murder while armed. United States v. Void, 631 A.2d 374, 376 (D.C. 1993). He received a term of 3-9 years' imprisonment on the conspiracy conviction, to be served consecutively to a mandatory-minimum term of 20 years to life on the murder conviction. Defs.' Mot. to Set Aside Default, Statement of Material Facts not in Dispute, at ¶ 2. Plaintiff, whose aggregate minimum term of imprisonment is thus 23 years, has been transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Plaintiff originally filed the Complaint in this case in the Superior Court on Oct. 30, 2010. At the time, he was designated to the United States Penitentiary in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia ("USP Hazleton"). He has since been designated to the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. In its entirety, the Complaint states:

THE DESIGNATION AND SENTENCE COMPUTATION CENTER, AND THE RECORDS OFFICE (INMATE SYSTEMS MANAGERS OFFICE) AT USP HAZELTON BOTH HAVE MISS CALCULATED MY SENTENCE COMPUTATION BY NOT APPLYING THE "DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA GOODTIME CREDITS ACT" FOR OFFENSES COMMITTED ON OR AFTER APRIL 11, 1987, UNTIL JUNE 21, 1994. SPECIFICALLY, 24 DSC § 428 INSTITUTION GOOD TIME, OFF THE MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM TERM, AND 24 DSC § 429 EDUCATION GOOD TIME OFF THE MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM TERM. THEREBY MAKING (MYSELF) MISS MY PAROLE ELIGIBILITY DATE BY ONE YEAR, AND COUNTING. I HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES. I AM SEEKING $7,000,000 IN ACTUAL DAMAGES, AND RELEASE FROM INCARCERATION.

Plaintiff named two Defendants: Terry O'Brien, the Warden of USP Hazelton, see Defs.' Opp. to Pl.'s Mot. to Remand, Decl. of Terry O'Brien, ¶ 1, and Jose Santana, the Chief of the BOP's Designation and Sentence Computation Center ("DSCC"). Id., Decl. of Jose Santana, ¶ 1. Each Defendant is a full-time career employee of the BOP and has held his position since 2010. O'Brien Decl. ¶¶ 1, 3; Santana Decl. ¶¶ 1, 3.

The Superior Court for some reason classified Plaintiff's case as a personal-injury lawsuit. See Information Sheet, Civ. No. 8231-10 (D.C. Super. Ct., filed Oct. 30, 2010). According to the Superior Court docket, summonses were issued on November 10, 2010, and service by certified mail was made on Defendant O'Brien on November 4, 2010, and on Defendant Santana on November 5, 2010. Neither Defendant responded to the Complaint, and the Clerk of Superior Court entered a default as to both on January 20, 2011. Four days later, Plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment, following which Defendants removed the matter to this Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1442(a)(1) on January 31, 2011.

On Feb. 22, 2011, Defendants moved to set aside the Superior Court default and also sought dismissal or summary judgment. In their pleadings, Defendants argued that dismissal was proper whether they were sued in their individual or official capacities, and that the United States, were it substituted as a party, should also be dismissed. Mot. at 4-14. Plaintiff responded that removal was improper because he "did not file a civil action against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or the United States or an officer thereof, but Plaintiff did file a civil action against independent contractors, Terry O'Brien and Jose Santana . . . ." Pl. Rep. to Defs.' Notice of Removal at 1-2 (emphasis original). The Court construes this pleading as a motion for remand under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). The Government then filed a Supplemental Motion to Dismiss, which included a certification that O'Brien and Santana "were acting within the scope of their employment as employees of the [BOP] at the time of the allegations stated in the complaint." Supp. Mot. to Dismiss, Certification of Rudolph Contreras, Chief, Civil Division, Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, dated April 1, 2011.

II.Legal Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." When the sufficiency of a complaint is challenged under Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations presented in it must be presumed true and should be liberally construed in plaintiff's favor. Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). The notice pleading rules are "not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff," Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and he or she must thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 584 (2007). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, "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 omitted). Plaintiff must put forth "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Though a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if "recovery is very remote and unlikely," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)), the facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555.

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the Court is not limited to the pleadings where extrinsic material is submitted. Faulkenberg v. CB Tax Franchise Systems, LP, 637 F.3d 801, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2011). In such a motion, the pleadings need not be accepted as true, and the Court may accept facts outside the pleadings. Murphy v. Schneider National, Inc., 362 F.3d 1133, 1137 (9th Cir. 2004).

III.Analysis

A. ...


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