United States District Court, District of Columbia
JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.
Having already served twenty years of an indeterminate sentence of fifteen years to life imposed by the District of Columbia Superior Court, Plaintiff Talib Shakir is understandably eager to be paroled. The U.S. Parole Commission, however, has different ideas. Instead of releasing Shakir at his 2013 hearing, the Commission denied parole and set off his next hearing until 2018. Claiming that this decision was a product of the USPC's impermissible use of its 2000 guidelines, which were drafted after his sentence was imposed, Plaintiff has filed this pro se action to compel the Commission to revisit his parole - this time under the proper 1987 guidelines. Because the USPC did employ the earlier guidelines in its decision to set off Shakir's hearing, the Court will grant its Motion to Dismiss.
As almost all of the facts in this case are undisputed, the Court draws from both sides' pleadings and attached documents. Shakir, in fact, incorporates the Commission's official documents in his pleadings and never questions their authenticity.
Plaintiff was sentenced in the Superior Court in 1995 to an indeterminate term of fifteen years to life for second-degree murder and associated crimes. See Mot., Exh. 1 (Sentence Monitoring Computation Data) at 1. He first came up for parole in May 2010, see id. at 2, but was denied, and his next hearing was set for August 2013. See Mot., Exh. 3 (2010 Notice of Action). At this 2013 hearing, although the examiner recommended parole, see Mot., Exh. 4 (Post-Hearing Assessment), she was overruled, parole was denied, and Shakir was given a five-year "set-off, " meaning his next hearing was set for 2018. See Mot., Exh. 5 (2013 Notice of Action).
Plaintiff filed this action on May 8, 2014, claiming that the Commission "retroactively appl[ied] the USPC's own 2000 Parole Guidelines and practices, in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause, so as to significantly increase the risk that Plaintiff would serve a longer term of incarceration." Compl. at 2. Shakir contends that the Commission should have employed the 1987 guidelines, which were in effect at the time of his initial sentencing, rather than the ones promulgated in 2000. See id. at 2-3. He seeks an order holding the application of the 2000 guidelines unconstitutional and an injunction requiring the USPC to hold a new hearing under the 1987 guidelines. See id. at 3. Defendant has now moved to dismiss.
II. Legal Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In evaluating Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, 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 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (citation omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The notice-pleading rules are "not meant to impose a great burden upon a plaintiff, " Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and he must thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. See 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, id. 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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. The Court need not accept as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, " nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted)). Although a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if "recovery is very remote and unlikely, " the facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).
In evaluating the sufficiency of Plaintiff's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider "the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the court] may take judicial notice." Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
A. Application of 1987 Guidelines
In moving to dismiss, the Commission's principal argument is simple: it asserts that, contrary to Shakir's allegations, the undisputed documentation proves that it did apply the 1987 guidelines at his 2013 parole hearing. As a result, he has nothing to complain of. Before considering the question, a brief primer on the history of the two sets of guidelines may prove of value.
Prior to the 1997 Congressional enactment of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act, codified at D.C. Code § 24-101 et seq., the D.C. Parole Board conducted hearings for offenders convicted in the Superior Court. The Act abolished the Board and transferred parole hearings to the USPC, which was instructed to follow "the parole laws and regulations of the District of Columbia." Id. § 24-131(c). Prior to such transfer, the Board relied on guidelines promulgated in 1987; as a result, the Commission initially continued to employ those when it considered D.C. offenders. Yet, as Judge Ellen Huvelle of this District explained in a thorough and detailed opinion on the history of the different guidelines, the Commission subsequently "drafted new parole regulations and ...