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

January 20, 2012

ERIC LEWIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
U.S. PAROLE COMMISSION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document No.: 28

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RELIEF UPON RECONSIDERATION;GRANTING LEAVE TO THE PLAINTIFF TO FILE A RENEWED MOTION FOR RELIEF UPON RECONSIDERATION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the pro se plaintiff's motion for relief upon reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b) and 59(e). The plaintiff commenced this suit while he was incarcerated in a federal penitentiary. He alleges that various federal entities*fn1 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 caused the United States Parole Commission ("USPC") to unfairly deny him parole.

In March 2011, the court dismissed this suit after determining that the plaintiff's Privacy Act claim should have been raised in a habeas corpus petition and that the Privacy Act provided the proper vehicle for the plaintiff to bring his "§ 1983" claims or, more properly stated, his Bivens claims. In April 2011, the plaintiff moved for relief upon reconsideration under Rules 59(e) and 60(b), arguing that the court made a clear error of law and applied the wrong standard in its prior analysis. Because the court concludes that it did not err in its previous ruling, the court denies the plaintiff's motion for relief upon reconsideration. In light of the plaintiff's release from prison in November 2011, however, the court grants the plaintiff leave to file a renewed motion for relief upon reconsideration pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5).

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Until November 2011, the pro se plaintiff had been incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Petersburg, Virginia. See http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/LocateInmate.jsp (last visited December 11, 2011). The plaintiff served 201 months 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; Defs.' Mot. at 1; Pl.'s Mot. for Recons., Ex. B. At the time that the plaintiff committed this robbery, he was already 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).

The USPC had denied the plaintiff parole in a number of parole hearings since 2002. See generally Compl. The plaintiff alleges that in deliberating whether to grant him parole, the USPC took into consideration inaccurate information regarding his criminal history. See generally Compl. Although far from a model of clarity, the plaintiff's complaint appears to indicate that the USPC considered the following erroneous information: (1) that the plaintiff was convicted in 1980 for carrying a dangerous weapon and was subsequently incarcerated 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, the 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, the USPC conducted yet another parole hearing and denied the plaintiff parole because it determined that he had "a history of committing violent offenses while under supervision," as he had "admitted . . . [to having] had committed six bank robberies." Id., Ex. M. The plaintiff was finally granted parole on March 18, 2011, effective in November 2011. See generally Pl.'s Mot. for Recons., Ex. B.

B. Procedural History

In April 2010, the plaintiff commenced this action, asserting that the "[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 to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 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 he therefore seeks $10,000,000 in damages. Compl. at 2.

Soon thereafter, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The defendants argued that the plaintiff was required to raise his claims in a habeas petition as opposed to the instant action. See generally Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss. According to the defendants, the plaintiff's Privacy Act claims were essentially challenges to the duration of his prison confinement and, as such, his exclusive remedy exists in the form of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Id. at 6-9. The defendants further argued that because a prisoner is required to file a habeas petition in the district court where he is incarcerated, this court lacks jurisdiction. Id. at 7.

The plaintiff submitted that under the Supreme Court's decision in Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74 (2005), a habeas petition was not his exclusive remedy. Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 4. The plaintiff further contended that even if this court construes his claim as one for habeas relief, this court maintains ...


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