United States District Court, District of Columbia
WALLACE G. MITCHELL, Petitioner,
LENNARD JOHNSON, Respondent.
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
August 2015, Petitioner Wallace G. Mitchell brought this
action for a writ of habeas corpus while detained at the
District of Columbia Jail on a D.C. Superior Court writ.
See Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 1
[hereinafter Pet.]. Petitioner challenges a disciplinary
decision rendered in June 2015, following a hearing on a
charge of “Threatening Conduct and Disrepect.”
Pet.r's Opp'n to Resp't's Mot. for Recons.,
ECF No. 95 [hereinafter Pet'r Opp'n], Ex. 2, ECF No.
95-2. Petitioner alleges that the decision resulted in his
placement in “disciplinary segregation [for 30 days],
loss of good time, [and] loss of privileges.” Pet.
¶ 6; see Apr. 29, 2016 Mem. Op., ECF No. 31, at
2. He seeks expungement of the disciplinary report, the
restoration of “all good time and privileges, ”
his return to the general population, and a declaratory
judgment that his due process rights were violated. Pet.
Motion for Reconsideration filed on May 11, 2018, Respondent
suggests that this action is moot. See
Resp't's Mot. for Recons., ECF No. 92 [hereinafter
Resp't Mot.]. The court agrees that a live case or
controversy no longer exists. Accordingly, for the reasons
explained more fully below, the court grants Respondent's
motion and dismisses the petition as moot.
November 18, 2016, then-presiding Judge Rosemary M. Collyer
ruled in favor of Petitioner on the meaningful hearing
requirement of the Due Process Clause but could not determine
“whether the conditions of Mr. Mitchell's ensuing
placement in a segregated housing unit created a liberty
interest consistent with Sandin v. Connor, 515 U.S.
471 (1995).” Order, ECF No. 37, at 1. Consequently,
Judge Collyer set this matter for an evidentiary hearing and
eventually obtained the assistance of the Federal Public
Defender to appoint counsel under 18 U.S.C. §
3006A(a)(2) to represent Petitioner “for purposes of
the evidentiary hearing.” Order, ECF No. 45. In
addition, Judge Collyer issued a scheduling order, ECF No.
54, to govern discovery through September 29, 2017. The
hearing was to commence on November 15, 2017.
Petitioner's appointed counsel was permitted to withdraw
on July 17, 2017, and this case was reassigned to the
undersigned judge on September 27, 2017. The evidentiary
hearing was vacated in part because Petitioner was no longer
represented. This court appointed new counsel on October 13,
2017. Following additional discovery and several status
hearings, Petitioner's second appointed counsel was
permitted to withdraw on July 30, 2018. The court postponed
consideration of a third appointment of counsel pending
resolution of the instant motion to reconsider. See
July 30, 2018 Min. Order.
seeks reconsideration of Judge Collyer's order, which is
interlocutory or non-final and thus evaluated under Rule
54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Ferrer
v. CareFirst, Inc., 278 F.Supp.3d 330, 332 (D.D.C.
2017). Rule 54(b) provides that “any order . . . that
adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties . . . may be
revised at any time before the entry of a judgment
adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights
and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b).
“Interlocutory orders are not subject to the law of the
case doctrine and may always be reconsidered prior to final
judgment . . . even when a case is reassigned to a new
judge.” Langevine v. D.C., 106 F.3d 1018, 1023
(D.C. Cir. 1997). The succeeding judge has “full
authority to reconsider [a prior] order granting a new
trial” or hearing. Id. Relief under Rule 54(b)
may be granted “as justice requires.” Cobell
v. Norton, 355 F.Supp.2d 531, 539 (D.D.C. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
contends that the Petition is rendered moot by “the
passage of time, ” Resp't. Mot. at 3, thereby
depriving this court of subject-matter jurisdiction.
“Federal courts lack jurisdiction to decide moot cases
because their constitutional authority extends only to actual
cases or controversies.” Conservation Force, Inc.
v. Jewell, 733 F.3d 1200, 1204 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting
Iron Arrow Honor Soc'y v. Heckler, 464 U.S. 67,
70 (1983)). “Even where litigation poses a live
controversy when filed, the [mootness] doctrine requires a
federal court to refrain from deciding it if events have so
transpired that the decision will neither presently affect
the parties' rights nor have a more-than-speculative
chance of affecting them in the future.” Clarke v.
United States, 915 F.2d 699, 701 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (en
banc) (internal quotation marks omitted); accord District
of Columbia v. Doe, 611 F.3d 888, 894 (D.C. Cir. 2010).
“The initial ‘heavy burden' of establishing
mootness lies with the party asserting a case is moot, but
the opposing party bears the burden of showing an exception
applies[.]” Honeywell Int'l, Inc. v. Nuclear
Regulatory Comm'n, 628 F.3d 568, 576 (D.C. Cir.
2010) (citations omitted).
Collyer recently dismissed as moot another of
Petitioner's habeas petitions challenging “a long
expired ‘punitive' detention” from November
2016. Mitchell v. Johnson, No. 17-cv-764 (RMC), 2018
WL 4637361, at *1 (D.D.C. Sept. 27, 2018). She explained:
A case is moot when (1) interim relief or events have
completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the
alleged violation and (2) there is no reasonable expectation
that the alleged wrong(s) will be repeated. Doe v.
Harris, 696 F.2d 109, 111 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (citing
Cty. of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631
(1979)). When both conditions are satisfied, the case is moot
because neither party has a legally cognizable interest in
the final determination of the underlying facts and law.
See id. A prisoner “seeking injunctive or
declaratory relief” must show “continuing adverse
consequences” from the challenged action.
Id. Asserting an exception to the mootness doctrine,
Petitioner argued in that case that his petition raised
“a classic issue that is capable of repetition yet
evading review, ” id. at *2 (internal
quotation marks and record citation omitted), which Judge
Collyer ultimately rejected because of the “highly
fact-dependent” nature of prison disciplinary actions
that makes recurrence of the same due process violation
highly unlikely, id. (citations omitted); see
Mundo Verde Pub. Charter Sch. v. Sokolov, 315 F.Supp.3d
374, 383 (D.D.C. 2018) (finding the “‘legal wrong
complained of by the plaintiff' . . . unlikely to recur
precisely because it is so dependent on the facts of each
case”) (citing Del ...