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Donelson v. United States Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 9, 2015

U.S. BUREAU OF PRISONS et al., Defendants


For U.S. BUREAU OF PRISONS, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE, Defendants: Rhonda Lisa Campbell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.


AMY BERMAN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Joseph Donelson is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se. He contends that his incarceration is unlawful because it is based on a " forged" Judgment and Commitment Order (" J& C" ) that was unlawfully executed by the defendants, namely, the United States Marshals Service (" USMS" ) and the Bureau of Prisons (" BOP" ). Invoking the Privacy Act, among other statutes, plaintiff seeks the " amendment & correction of [] records" allegedly maintained by both defendants. Compl. at 2-3.

Defendants move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Compl., ECF No. 10. Plaintiff has filed an opposition, ECF No. 12, and defendants have replied, ECF No. 13. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the motion will be granted and this case dismissed.


Plaintiff is serving a prison sentence of 240 months imposed by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in 2008 as a result of his conviction for bank robbery. Donelson v. Loretto, 566 F.App'x 111 (3d Cir. ) (per curiam), cert. denied sub nom. Donelson v. Kirby, 135 S.Ct. 287, 190 L.Ed.2d 210 (2014). Currently confined at the Federal Correctional Center in Loretto, Pennsylvania, plaintiff has unsuccessfully pursued habeas relief in the sentencing court and in the Western District of Pennsylvania. See id. at 111-12.

The allegations in the instant complaint are difficult to follow but they are the same as those underlying the claims presented in the habeas proceedings in Pennsylvania, i.e., that plaintiff is being " unlawfully detained because the United States Marshal did not sign and file the return portion of his criminal judgment upon his commitment as required by 18 U.S.C. § 3621(c)." [1] Id. at 112; cf. with Compl. at 2 (alleging, inter alia s, that the USMS " refuse[d] to obey a Court Mandate to commit[] Plaintiff to the [BOP], . . . and [to] execute the Court's [J& C] and return same an original Certified [J& C] . . . back to the clerk of court" ). Plaintiff alleges also that he was " placed . . . in the hands of [a warden] who without any delegation of authority from the District Court of the U.S.M.S. Director . . . forged his signatures (printed and signed), in the return execution section of the Judgment, and filled in false information . . . to fabricate legal justification to receive & detain Plaintiff in the [BOP's] custody in violation of the Constitution and laws [of the] United States." Compl. at 2.

The Western District of Pennsylvania denied plaintiff's two habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 for lack of jurisdiction upon determining that the claim should have been brought via a motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which plaintiff had already pursued without success. See Donelson, 566 F.App'x at 112. In its opinion filed on May 7, 2014, affirming the district court's decision, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals found that even if § 2241 was a proper vehicle for plaintiff's claim, he had abused the writ because he had " raised the same claim in his earlier § 2241 proceeding" but had failed to seek further review by objecting to the magistrate judge's report that " did not discuss the claim" and then moving for reconsideration " and/or [] appeal[ing]." Id.

Meanwhile, in April 2014, plaintiff filed this civil action seeking relief under the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Declaratory Judgment Act.[2] See Compl. at 1.


In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must " treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113, 342 U.S.App.D.C. 268 (D.C. Cir. 2000), quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608, 199 U.S.App.D.C. 23 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (citations omitted). Nevertheless, the court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242, 352 U.S.App.D.C. 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002); see Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 39-40, 359 U.S.App.D.C. 179 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (differentiating unacceptable conclusions of law from acceptable conclusions of fact).

" To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] 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 . . . . A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (a plaintiff's " [f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." ) (citations omitted). While " [a] pro se complaint . . . must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers . . . even a pro se complaint must plead factual matter that permits the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Atherton v. District of Columbia Off. of Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82, 386 U.S.App.D.C. 144 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (internal quotations marks and citations omitted).

In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court " may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint[,] and matters of which . . . judicial notice" may be taken. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial School, 117 F.3d 621, 624, 326 U.S.App.D.C. 67 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The court may take judicial notice of another court's proceedings. See Jenson v. Huerta, 828 F.Supp.2d 174, 179 (D.D.C. 2011), quoting Lewis v. DEA, 777 F.Supp.2d 151, 159 (D.D.C. 2011) (" The court may take judicial notice of public records from other court proceedings." ); Akers v. Watts, 589 F.Supp.2d 12, 15 (D.D.C. 2008) (taking " judicial notice of the records of this Court and of other federal courts" ) (citations omitted). In construing pro se filings liberally, and absent any indication of ...

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