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United States v. Forrest

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 11, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LEONARD FORREST, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RBGGIE B. WALTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The defendant, Leonard Forrest, is currently serving a seventy-month term of imprisonment that was imposed by this Court following his plea of guilty to two counts of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). See Plea Agreement at 1 (Dec. 11, 2014); Judgment in a Criminal Case at 3 (Mar. 6, 2015). Currently pending before the Court are the defendant's pro se motions for Post[-]Conviction Relief, 18 U.S.C. [§] 21[]13 (“Def.'s Pet.” or “Petition”) and his Demand for a Speedy Disposition Review (“Def.'s Demand”), as well as the United States' Motion to Transfer Petitioner's Pro Se Post Conviction Relief Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2113 (“Gov't's Mot.”), which requests that this Court transfer the defendant's submissions to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (the “Southern District of Indiana”), see Gov't's Mot. at 1. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, [1] the Court concludes that it must order further briefing from the parties before rendering a decision on the parties' motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The defendant is currently serving his term of imprisonment at a federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. See Gov't's Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) A (Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator Results for Leonard Forrest) (showing that the defendant is incarcerated at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Terre Haute, Indiana). At the time of his arrest for the conduct underlying the criminal charges in this case, the defendant was on parole for prior criminal convictions under District of Columbia law. Compare Criminal Complaint, Ex. 1 (Statement of Facts) at 1 (indicating that the defendant was arrested on December 6, 2013), with Presentence Investigation Report at 19 (Feb. 19, 2015) (indicating that the defendant was paroled in connection with the District of Columbia convictions on May 10, 2013, with a parole expiration date of December 25, 2020). Consequently, on February 21, 2014, “a parole violator warrant was issued [by the United States Parole Commission (the “Commission”)] . . ., and [was] lodged as a detainer with the United States Marshal[]s Service” (the “February 21, 2014 detainer”). Id. at 19.[2]

         The defendant alleges that on or about August 9, 2016, he submitted a request to the Commission for removal of the February 21, 2014 detainer. See Def.'s Demand, Ex. 1 (Affidavit of Leonard Forrest (Nov. 16, 2017) (“Forrest Aff.”)) at 1. He further alleges that on October 12, 2016, the Commission responded to his request by letter, in which it “acknowledge[d] [ ] that [it] had received the [request]” and informed him that the request had been “forwarded to the Case Service Office.” Id., Ex. 1 (Forrest Aff.) at 1.[3] The letter also allegedly “stated . . . that a decision would be made [by the Commission] within [forty-five] days.” Id., Ex. 1 (Forrest Aff.) at 1. Additionally, it appears that the defendant also “request[ed] a hearing in order to remove the detainer.” See Def.'s Pet. at 20 (attachment to the defendant's petition is a letter purporting to be from the defendant to the Commission, but not reflecting a date or otherwise indicating that it was actually sent).[4]

         On October 4, 2016, the defendant filed his Petition in this Court, representing that “because . . . [the February 21, 2014] detainer w[as] not removed, [he is] not eligible for home-confinement [or] community release/halfway house [placement, ] which would greatly assist [him] in returning as a productive member of society.” Id. at 1.[5] Thereafter, on December 12, 2017, the defendant filed his Demand for a Speedy Disposition Review, in which he requests that the Court order the Commission “to recall/dismiss/withdraw/close the warrant pending against him” on the grounds that the detainer “is greatly interfering with [his] rehabilitation efforts, ” “[h]is ability to participate in [Bureau of Prisons] programs and educational classes, ” and his “eligib[ility] for home confinement or . . . to be moved to a lower custody facility.” Def.'s Demand at 1-2. In his affidavit, the defendant additionally asserts that the Commission should remove the February 21, 2014 detainer in light of the fact that more than forty-five days have passed since the Commission sent him the October 12, 2016 letter acknowledging receipt of his request. See id., Ex. 1 (Forrest Aff.) at 1. The government having not responded to either of the defendant's submissions, the Court, on December 18, 2017, ordered the government to respond. See Order at 1 (Dec. 18, 2017), ECF No. 28. In compliance with the Court's Order, the government filed a motion requesting that the Court transfer the defendant's claims to the Southern District of Indiana. See Gov't's Mot. at 1.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The government argues that because the defendant's “claim[s] relate[] solely to the execution of [his] sentence and seek[] to shorten the duration of his confinement, [they] must be raised through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.” Id. at 2. It further argues that because the defendant “was at the time of filing confined . . . in Terre Haute, Indiana, and . . . remains confined there today, [his] . . . petition cannot be considered by this Court[] because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the ‘person having custody of the person detained, ' as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [(2016)].” Id. at 3 (collecting cases). In response to the government's motion, the defendant argues that “having a detainer removed has nothing to do with post[-]conviction relief” because it “does not get [him] out of prison sooner than [seventy] months, ” see Def.'s Resp. at 1, and that the Court may properly hear his claims because he is “from the [D]istrict of Columbia[, ] [ ] the U.S. Parole Commission is in Washington[, ] D.C.[, ] and [he] will be returning to Washington[, ] D.C., ” Def.'s Supp. Resp. at 1.

         As an initial matter, the Court concludes that it need not resolve at this time the issue of whether the defendant's request for removal of the February 21, 2014 detainer may only be raised in a habeas petition, because although the defendant insists that his request for removal of the detainer “has nothing to do with post[-]conviction relief, ” Def.'s Resp. at 1, he has not provided the Court with any legal authority that would otherwise permit the Court to grant or even consider the relief he is requesting.[6] Thus, no other legal authority that would permit the Court to consider the defendant's request is readily apparent to the Court. Because a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is an available and appropriate remedy for the defendant's challenge to the detainer, see, e.g., United States v. Stewart, 148 F.Supp.3d 38, 41 (D.D.C. 2015) (recognizing that “[a]n inmate may seek habeas [relief under § 2241] to challenge a detainer lodged against him by an authority that would be his future custodian should the detainer be honored” (citing Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Ct. of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 486-87, 488-89, 500-01 (1973))), at least two other potential causes of action are foreclosed, including a petition for a writ of mandamus, see Chatman-Bey v. Thornburgh, 864 F.2d 804, 806 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (“Because . . . habeas is an available and potentially efficacious remedy, it is clear beyond reasonable dispute that mandamus will not appropriately lie.”), or a claim under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), see Stern v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 601 F.Supp.2d 303, 305 (D.D.C. 2009) (concluding that the availability of habeas relief under § 2241 precluded an APA claim because “the APA does not allow a claim unless ‘there is no other adequate remedy in a court'” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Therefore, in the absence of any other basis for considering the defendant's request, the Court will construe the defendant's request as a petition for habeas relief pursuant to § 2241.[7]

         Having construed the defendant's request for removal of the detainer as a request for habeas relief, the Court must determine whether this Court is the proper forum to consider that request. The government is correct that in general, the proper respondent in a prisoner's habeas challenge is a prisoner's immediate custodian, see Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 434-35 (2004); see also Blair-Bey v. Quick, 151 F.3d 1036, 1039 (D.C. Cir. 1998), and district courts “may not entertain a habeas petition involving present physical custody unless the respondent custodian is within its territorial jurisdiction, ” Stokes v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 374 F.3d 1235, 1239 (D.C. Cir. 2004). However, the Supreme Court has instructed that “a habeas petitioner who challenges a form of ‘custody' other than present physical confinement may name as [a] respondent the entity or person who exercises legal control with respect to the challenged ‘custody.'” Padilla, 542 U.S. at 438.

         Based on this Court's review of relevant case law, whether a challenge to a detainer constitutes a challenge to present physical custody, as opposed to some other form of custody, depends on the nature of the challenge. Specifically, if a prisoner seeks to attack the “[e]ffect of a detainer, ” i.e., “the adverse impact created by the immediate custodian's imposition of a special ‘form of custody' on the prisoner as a result of the filing of the detainer, ” Norris v. Georgia, 522 F.2d 1006, 1011 (4th Cir. 1975), the prisoner is challenging his present physical confinement, and therefore, his challenge must be brought against his immediate custodian in “a federal district court in the state or district of confinement, ” id. at 1010 (citing Nelson v. George, 399 U.S. 224 (1970)); see also Morris v. United States, Civ. Action No. 10-717, 2013 WL 5230635, at *5 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 16, 2013) (recognizing that the federal district court in the district of confinement is the proper forum for a habeas challenge to the effect of a detainer, but ultimately dismissing as moot a petitioner's challenge to the effect of a South Carolina detainer due to the petitioner's release from federal custody).

         By contrast, if a prisoner seeks to attack the “[v]alidity of [the] detainer, ” e.g., he seeks to attack “the detainer's underlying criminal charges or conviction, ” Norris, 522 F.2d at 1011, he raises a challenge to future physical confinement pursuant to the detainer, and the proper respondent is not necessarily the prisoner's present physical custodian, but may be “the entity or person who exercises legal control with respect to” the detainer, see Padilla, 542 U.S. at 438; see also Braden, 410 U.S. at 486-87, 499-501 (in an Alabama state prisoner's challenge to a Kentucky state detainer on the ground that the indictment underlying the detainer was invalid, concluding that the prisoner had properly named as the respondent the Kentucky court in which the detainer was lodged); see also id. at 499 (recognizing that “the [immediate] custodian [ ] is presumably indifferent to the resolution of the prisoner's attack on the detainer”). As the Supreme Court in Braden recognized, although “concurrent jurisdiction” may exist, the “federal district court in the district of confinement . . . will not in the ordinary case prove as convenient as the district court in the [s]tate which has lodged the detainer.” 410 U.S. at 499 n.15. Consistent with Braden and Padilla, several other members of this Court have concluded that the proper respondent in a prisoner's challenge to the validity of a detainer “is the authority that issued the detainer.” See Stewart, 148 F.Supp.3d at 41 (in a prisoner's challenge to a Commission detainer on the ground that the underlying parole violation warrant was defective, concluding that “the Commission [wa]s a proper custodian [ ] since the Commission is the authority that issued the detainer”); see also Kuei Sen-Tung v. United States, 755 F.Supp. 18, 19 (D.D.C. 1991) (in a federal prisoner's challenge to a California state detainer on the ground that the underlying state sentence violated an extradition treaty, concluding that “the official who issued the detainer in California [wa]s deemed the plaintiff's custodian for purposes of attacking the detainer”); Terry v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 741 F.Supp. 282, 282-83 (D.D.C. 1990) (in a state prisoner's challenge to a Commission detainer on the ground that the Commission “failed to provide him with a proper parole revocation hearing, ” concluding that the proper respondent “[wa]s the detainer-lodging entity with the most immediate control over the length of his federal detainer: the [ ] Commission”). But see Evans v. U.S. Marshals Serv., 177 F.Supp.3d 177, 179, 181-82 (D.D.C. 2016) (in an Ohio state prisoner's challenge to a United States Marshals Service detainer on the ground that the detainer was “placed against him without notice, ” concluding that the proper respondent was the prisoner's Ohio custodian because the prisoner did “not argu[e] that the detainer would lead to [the Marshals Service] taking custody of him[, but] claim[ed] only that it might cause Ohio to delay his release, ” and “any additional detention stemming therefrom w[ould] occur in Ohio”); Thomas v. Fulwood, 128 F.Supp.3d 341, 345-46 (D.D.C. 2015) (“construing [a prisoner's] challenge to [a] detainer as [a] request for ‘relief from confinement that is or will be imposed sometime in the future, '” but ultimately concluding that the proper respondent to that challenge was the prisoner's immediate custodian (quoting Boyer v. U.S. Dist. Court, Civ. Action No. 89-3401, 1990 WL 91533, at *1 (D.D.C. June 19, 1990))).

         Here, it is clear that the defendant seeks to challenge the effect of the February 21, 2014 detainer on his current detention. See Def.'s Demand at 1-2 (alleging that the detainer “is greatly interfering with [his] rehabilitation efforts, ” “[h]is ability to participate in [Bureau of Prisons] programs and educational classes, ” and his “eligib[ility] for home confinement or . . . to be moved to a lower custody facility”); see also Def.'s Resp. at 2 (asserting that “because of the detainer the prison will not go any fu[r]ther with [his] request [for the reduction of his sentence]”). Therefore, the Court concludes that the proper respondent as to this aspect of the defendant's challenge to the detainer is his current custodian, see Norris, 522 F.2d at 1010, the warden of the Indiana facility where he is incarcerated, see Gov't's Mot., Ex. A (Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator Results for Leonard Forrest). And, because this Court lacks territorial jurisdiction over that custodian, the government is correct that this Court is not the proper forum for this aspect of the defendant's challenge. See Stokes, 374 F.3d at 1239. Rather, the proper forum is the district of the defendant's confinement, see Padilla, 542 U.S. at 444 (“In habeas challenges to present physical confinement, . . . the district of confinement is synonymous with the district court that has territorial jurisdiction over the proper respondent.”), which is the Southern District of Indiana, where the warden and the Terre Haute facility are located, see Terre Haute, U.S. Dist. Court for the S. Dist. of Ind., http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/content/terre-haute (last visited June 7, 2018) (indicating that the Southern District of Indiana serves the city of Terre Haute and the county in which it is located).

         Notwithstanding the Court's conclusion that it lacks jurisdiction over the defendant's habeas challenge to the effect of the detainer, the Court does not find it appropriate to transfer the challenge to the Southern District of Indiana at this time. Construing the pro se defendant's submissions liberally, as the Court must, see Atherton v. D.C. Office of Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (“[P]ro se [pleadings] . . . ‘must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007))), it appears for ...


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