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Sweeney v. United States Parole Commission

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 18, 2016

JOHN SWEENEY, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Petitioner John Sweeney is currently incarcerated in the District of Columbia Jail. He originally challenged the legality of his detention by filing a habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on February 12, 2016, which was assigned to Judge Rosemary Collyer of this district. Apparently believing that two rolls of the dice are better than one, he then filed this identical § 2241 Petition before this Court two weeks later. As the legality of Sweeney’s detention has already been decided on the merits, the Court will deny this duplicative Petition.

         I. Background

         On June 21, 2010, Sweeney was sentenced in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to an aggregate prison term of 72 months for assault with intent to commit robbery and related weapons offenses. See Sweeney v. U.S. Parole Comm’n (Sweeney I), No. 16-245, 2016 WL 3030230, at *1 (D.D.C. May 26, 2016) (describing history). Upon his release from incarceration, he began serving a three-year term of supervised release. Id. He was arrested again in April 2015 and charged with four counts of unlawful possession of weapons and ammunition and one count of second-degree cruelty to children. See District of Columbia v. Sweeney, 2015-CF2-4535. On June 8, 2015, Judge Patricia A. Broderick of the Superior Court ordered Sweeney detained pending disposition of his new case. Sweeney I, 2016 WL 3030230, at *1; see also Sweeney, 2015-CF2-4535. He was committed to the D.C. Jail and has been incarcerated there since. Sweeney I, 2016 WL 3030230, at *1. Sweeney’s new criminal matter just resulted in a conviction on July 13, 2016. Sweeney, 2015-CF2-4535.

         In response to the new charges, the United States Parole Commission separately issued a “violator warrant” on May 7, 2015, because such charges, if true, violated the terms of his supervised release. Sweeney I, 2016 WL 3030230, at *1. Because such warrant was not executed by June 8 - the date Judge Broderick ordered Sweeney detained - it has been lodged with the District of Columbia until a date upon which execution may be appropriate. Id. As Sweeney is currently being held pending sentencing on the new charges, the Commission has yet to hold a hearing on the violator warrant. Id.

         On February 12, 2016, Sweeney filed his first Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Id. The crux of that Petition was that the Commission had violated his due-process rights by failing to hold a hearing on the violator warrant. See First Petition at 5. Sweeney inexplicably then filed this action on February 26, 2016, only two weeks later. See ECF No. 1. The Petition before this Court is identical to that filed in Sweeney I, with the only identifiable difference between the two being that the second Petition’s signature is dated. On May 26, 2016, Judge Collyer issued an Opinion denying Sweeney’s first Petition and dismissing the case. Sweeney I, 2016 WL 3030230, at *1. The Commission now moves to dismiss the instant Petition on the ground that “the matter has previously been discharged by this Court.” Opp. at 1.

         II. Analysis

         In opposing Sweeney’s Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, the Commission contends that a court has already ruled upon the “substance” of his claim. While Respondent does not articulate what doctrine it believes warrants dismissal here, it appears to be referring to res judicata. Such a challenge to Sweeney’s Petition, however, would be misplaced as “[r]es judicata does not apply to habeas petitions.” Baynes v. Zenk, 215 F. App’x 932, 933 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 319 (1995) (“This Court has consistently relied on the equitable nature of habeas corpus to preclude application of strict rules of res judicata.”).

         The Court can, instead, use its discretion to dismiss Sweeney’s claims on two alternative grounds. See Rasmussen v. Joslin, No. 07-355, 2008 WL 2329105, at *4-6 (S.D. Tex. June 4, 2008) (“Although respondent does not address this issue, a ‘long line of precedent’ establishes that courts may sua sponte raise affirmative defenses in habeas cases.”) (citing Kiser v. Johnson, 163 F.3d 326, 329 (5th Cir. 1999)). First, he impermissibly filed duplicative Petitions in the same court at the same time; and second, his Petition is successive as Judge Collyer has already ruled on the merits of an identical one. The Court considers each ground in turn.

         A. Duplicative Pleadings

         Despite Sweeney’s best attempts to get a second bite at the habeas-corpus apple, “[a] plaintiff has no right to maintain two separate actions involving the same subject matter at the same time in the same court and against the same defendant.” Baird v. Gotbaum, 792 F.3d 166, 171 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Zerilli v. Evening News Ass’n, 628 F.2d 217, 222 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). To prevent duplicative pleadings, this district has the “discretion to control [its] docket[] by dismissing duplicative cases.” Clayton v. District of Columbia, 36 F.Supp.3d 91, 94 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Katz v. Gerardi, 655 F.3d 1212, 1217 (10th Cir. 2011)); Bowe-Connor v. McDonald, No. 15-269, 2015 WL 807537, at *1 (D.D.C. Feb. 25, 2015) (“Where a plaintiff brings duplicative claims against the same defendant, . . . [t]he [best] course is to dismiss the claims in the new case as duplicative of the already-pending claims.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Columbia Plaza Corp. v. Sec. Nat’l Bank, 525 F.2d 620, 626 (D.C. Cir. 1975) (“Sound judicial administration counsels against separate proceedings, and the wasteful expenditure of energy and money incidental to separate litigation of identical issues should be avoided.”) (footnotes omitted).

         The bar restricting duplicative actions applies to all plaintiffs alike, refusing to distinguish between those proceeding pro se and those represented by counsel. Bowe-Connor, 2015 WL 807537, at *1 (dismissing pro se plaintiff’s complaint as it was “nearly identical [to the] complaint” filed six days prior as both recited the same allegations, used the same language, sought the same relief, and named the same defendant); Phelps v. Stomber, 883 F.Supp.2d 188, 233 (D.D.C. 2012) (dismissing duplicative claim where plaintiff was represented by counsel).

         This caselaw alone is sufficient to mandate dismissal.

         B. Second or ...


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