Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Han v. Lynch

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 12, 2016

JEONG SEON HAN, Petitioner,
v.
LORETTA E. LYNCH, Attorney General of the United States, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KETANJI BROWN JACKSON United States District Judge

         Petitioner Jeong Seon Han is a Korean national who, until recently, was actively employed as an engineer aboard a U.S.-flagged commercial fishing vessel. Han has filed a petition for habeas corpus in this Court in which he complains that he has been “effectively detained by the United States pending a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into purported violations” of federal and international environmental law. (Pet. for Habeas Corpus (“Pet.”), ECF No. 1, at 1; see also Decl. of Jeong Seon Han (“Han Decl.”), Attach. A to Pet., ECF No. 1-1, at 2.)[1] Han contends that he has been stripped of his liberty as a condition of an agreement that the United States and the vessel owner executed (hereinafter referred to as the “Security Agreement”), which required the vessel owner to “request” that certain crew members, including Han, surrender their passports and remain within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia pending further investigation into suspected violations of law. (See Pet. at 1; Agreement on Security (“Sec. Agreement”), Ex. 4 to Pet., ECF No. 1-5, at 9.) Han's habeas petition implores this Court to order Respondents U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Paul Zukunft (the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard) to release Han from his “constructive” detention in the District of Columbia (Pet. at 3), and to “[o]rder [Han] . . . free to return to his home in Korea” (id. at 12). However, at present, Han is no longer detained in the District of Columbia. Han's status has changed because, shortly after Han filed the instant habeas petition, the U.S. government initiated serial criminal proceedings against him-first in the District of Columbia, and thereafter in the District of Hawaii. Han is now located in Hawaii, where a district court order restricts his freedom of movement to the island of Oahu.

         Before this Court at present is the Respondents' Motion to Dismiss Han's habeas petition, which was filed following the initiation of the criminal proceedings, and which presents a suggestion of mootness. (See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Resp'ts' Mot.”), ECF No. 9, at 11-12.) For the reasons explained below, this Court concludes that Han's habeas petition is now moot with respect to his pre-indictment detention in the District of Columbia, and to the extent that Han's petition can be construed to seek relief from his current detention in Hawaii, this Court lacks jurisdiction over Han's claim, as district courts may only grant writs of habeas corpus “within their respective jurisdictions.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(a). Accordingly, the Respondents' Motion to Dismiss the instant habeas petition will be GRANTED.

         A separate order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion shall follow.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         On June 30, 2015, the Pacific Breeze, a U.S.-flagged purse seine fishing vessel, arrived in Pago Pago, American Samoa to unload its catch before undergoing routine maintenance. (See Pet. at 5.)[2] Petitioner Han had been working aboard the Pacific Breeze as an engineer. (See id.) On July 7, 2015, United States Coast Guard personnel boarded the Pacific Breeze while the vessel was docked in Pago Pago in order to conduct a scheduled, annual inspection “to determine if any illegal discharges of machinery space bilge water or other oily waste had occurred, in violation of the MARPOL Protocol, an international treaty implemented in the United States by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (‘APPS').” (Resp'ts' Mot. at 4.)[3] During the course of this inspection, which lasted “several days and eventually involved criminal investigators from the Coast Guard Investigative Service, ” Han was not permitted to leave the vessel. (Pet. at 5-6.)

         The Coast Guard's inspection revealed several “deficiencies” and other “conditions . . . believed to be indicative of criminal violation[s] of [the] APPS[.]” (Resp'ts' Mot. at 5.) As a result of these findings, the Coast Guard detained the Pacific Breeze for further investigation. (See Pet. at 6.) The Pacific Breeze was finally released on September 3, 2015, after the owner of the vessel-Pacific Breeze Fisheries, LLC-executed a Security Agreement that the Coast Guard drafted. (See Id. at 7; Pet'r's Opp'n to Resp'ts' Mot. (“Pet'r's Opp'n”), ECF No. 10, at 6.) Under the terms of this Security Agreement, the Pacific Breeze was permitted to depart American Samoa in exchange for the vessel owner's promise to ensure that certain crew members, including Han, “remained within [] the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia” (Pet. at 8 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Id. at 7) “during the pendency of the investigation and any possible resulting trial” (Resp'ts' Mot. at 5).[4]

         In accordance with the Security Agreement, Pacific Breeze Fisheries, LLC transported Han and certain other crew members to Virginia on October 25, 2015. (See Pet. at 8.) Thereafter, “[f]or nearly nine months, ” Han was “housed in an apartment in McLean, Virginia, awaiting a determination by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding whether it would pursue any criminal actions.” (Id.) Han filed a petition for habeas corpus with this Court on April 1, 2016, alleging that he was being effectively detained within the District of Columbia “without any process for nearly nine months” pending a Coast Guard investigation into purported violations of the APPS. (Id. at 4; see also Id. at 1, 2.)

         Han's troubles did not end there. Just four days after Han submitted his habeas petition, the U.S. government filed a criminal complaint against Han in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charging him with violating the APPS (see Resp'ts' Mot. at 7; Decl. of Candi Meyers (“Meyers Decl.”), Attach. to Resp'ts' Mot., ECF No. 9-1, at 8), and on April 26, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Han of three APPS violations (see Resp'ts' Mot. at 7). The district judge presiding over Han's criminal matter ultimately dismissed the April 26th indictment without prejudice for improper venue, but held its order in abeyance for ten days in order to give the government time to file the appropriate charging documents in the District of Hawaii, where the court concluded that venue was proper. See United States v. Han, No. 16-cr-71, 2016 WL 4132203, at *13 (D.D.C. Aug. 3, 2016) (Chutkan, J.).

         Then, on August 10, 2016, the government indicted Han of the same charges in the District of Hawaii. (See Resp'ts' Suppl. Mem. in Supp. of Resp'ts' Mot. (“Resp'ts' Suppl. Mem.”), ECF No. 14, at 1; Pet'r's Resp. to Ct.'s Min. Order (“Pet'r's Suppl. Mem.”), ECF No. 13, at 2; District of Hawaii Criminal Docket for case No. 16-cr-512 (“Hawaii Criminal Docket”), Ex. 1 to Pet'r's Suppl. Mem., ECF No. 13-1, at 3.) Following the return of the indictment in Hawaii, counsel for both parties coordinated Han's transport from the District of Columbia to Hawaii. (See Resp'ts' Reply to Pet'r's Suppl. Mem. (“Resp'ts' Suppl. Reply”), ECF No. 16, at 3; Oct. 5, 2016 Letter from Kenneth Nelson (“Nelson Letter”), Ex. A to Resp'ts' Suppl. Reply, ECF No. 16-1, at 1; Email exchange between Kenneth Nelson and Stephen Darmody (“Transport emails”), Ex. 2 to Pet'r's Suppl. Mem., ECF No. 13-2, at 2-4.)[5] On August 24, 2016, the District Court for the District of Hawaii issued an order imposing certain conditions of release on Han, including conditions that required Han to surrender his passport and remain on the island of Oahu. (See Hawaii Conditions of Release, Ex. 2 to Resp'ts' Suppl. Mem., ECF No. 14-2, at 1-2.)

         Thus, notwithstanding the fact that Han originally sought relief for his ongoing detention in the District of Columbia “pending a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into purported violations of the [APPS]” (Pet. at 1), Han is presently located in the District of Hawaii, where he faces criminal charges for violating the APPS, and where a court order restricts his freedom of movement. Consequently, Han has effectively experienced not one, but two, distinct detentions: (1) Han's pre-indictment detention in the District of Columbia pursuant to the Security Agreement, and (2) Han's current detention in Hawaii based on an indictment and a court order imposing conditions of release.

         B. Respondents' Motion to Dismiss

          The pending Motion to Dismiss Han's habeas petition, which Respondents filed in this Court on May 20, 2016 (after Han's initial indictment but prior to his indictment in, and transport to, Hawaii), primarily addresses the pre-indictment period of detention. Respondents argue that it was Han's employer who required him to remain in the District of Columbia pursuant to the Security Agreement, and thus, that “Han has not been detained by the United States, effectively or otherwise.” (Resp'ts' Mot. at 3.) Respondents further maintain that, in any event, Han is not being held in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights because a federal grand jury has returned an indictment against him. (See id.; see also Id. at 10-11 (characterizing Han's lack of illegal detention by the United States as a problem of standing and mootness).) In response, Han argues that he is “in custody under or by color of the authority of the United States” because the government directed and enforced his detention. (Pet'r's Opp'n at 15 (emphasis in original).) Han also emphasizes that, because his detention continues notwithstanding the subsequent indictment, his petition is not moot, and in the alternative, he insists that his case falls within the capable of repetition yet evading review exception to mootness. (See Id. at 15-20.)

         On September 9, 2016, after Han was moved to Hawaii, this Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs addressing the extent to which Han's relocation impacted the instant matter. (See Min. Order of Sept. 9, 2016.) In its response, the government again questioned this Court's jurisdiction on mootness grounds, and suggested that the Court transfer Han's case to the District of Hawaii pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) in the event it concludes that the case is not moot. (See Resp'ts' Suppl. Mem. at 1-5; Resp'ts' Suppl. Reply at 1, 4.) In response, Han reiterated that his case was not moot and that, in any event, his claim fell within the exception to mootness for actions capable of repetition yet evading review. (See Pet'r's Suppl. Mem. at 2-3; Pet'r's Resp. to Resp'ts' Suppl. Mem. (“Pet'r's Suppl. Reply”), ECF No. 15, at 3-4.)

         Respondents' motion to dismiss Han's habeas petition is now ripe for this Court's review. (See generally Resp'ts' Mot.; Pet'r's Opp'n; Resp'ts' Reply to Pet'r's Opp'n (“Resp'ts' Reply”), ECF No. 11.)

         II. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.