United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION, DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND PRELIMINARY
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Robert Shipp, a convicted felon currently serving a
thirty-year sentence for drug-related crimes and scheduled
for release in the next few weeks, comes before this Court
seeking to compel Defendants the Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) and its acting director, Hugh J. Hurwitz,
to comply with the good conduct time credits provision of the
First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194.
In his complaint, Shipp contends that the BOP is violating
the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5
U.S.C. §§ 701-06, by refusing to comply with the
First Step Act, which amends the U.S. Code to extend good
conduct time credit available to prisoners. Shipp moves for a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction
ordering Defendants to both 1) immediately recalculate
available good time credit for all prisoners in BOP custody,
and 2) immediately release from custody those prisoners with
release dates that have already passed. Because Congress
unambiguously delayed implementation of the relevant
subsection of the Act until a new risk and needs assessment
system is released by the Attorney General, and that system
has not yet been released, the Court concludes that
Plaintiff's claim lacks merit and denies the motion.
Incarceration Good Conduct Time Credit and the First Step
serving a sentence of incarceration, federal inmates can be
credited time towards the completion of their sentence if
they “display exemplary compliance with institutional
disciplinary regulations.” 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b).
Prior to the passage of the First Step Act, 18 U.S.C. §
3624(b) provided that prisoners could receive “credit
toward the service of the prisoner's sentence, beyond the
time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the
prisoner's term of imprisonment.” Id. In
interpreting this statute, the BOP “implemented a
calculation methodology that granted good time only for a
person's time spent in prison, as opposed to the duration
of the sentence imposed by the court.” Compl. ¶
13, ECF No. 1 (citing Barber v. Thomas, 560 U.S.
474, 476-77 (2010)). For example, a prisoner sentenced to ten
years of imprisonment but set to be released after only nine
years due to good behavior could receive good time credit
only for the nine years actually served, and not for the
tenth year of the sentence imposed by the Court. See
Barber, 560 U.S. at 478-79 (illustrating good time
credit earned under BOP interpretation in a hypothetical
ten-year sentence). Functionally, this resulted in prisoners
being eligible for at most 47 days of good time credit per
year of their court-ordered sentence. See id.;
Compl. ¶ 15.
December 21, 2018, President Donald J. Trump signed the First
Step Act into law. See generally First Step Act, 132
Stat. at 5194. The Act, which introduces a wide range of
amendments aimed at criminal justice reform, provides for the
creation of a new risk and needs assessment system for
prisoners, to be developed and released by the Attorney
General “[n]ot later than 210 days after the date of
enactment [of the Act].” First Step Act § 101(a).
The First Step Act also amends the good time credit
provision, with Section 102(b)(1)(A) of the Act amending 18
U.S.C. § 3624(b) to now provide that a prisoner
“may receive credit towards the service of the
prisoner's sentence of up to 54 days for each year of
the prisoner's sentence imposed by the court.”
First Step Act § 102(b)(1)(A) (emphasis added). However,
Section 102(b)(2) of the Act notes that “[t]he
amendments made by this subsection shall take effect
beginning on the date that the Attorney General completes and
releases the risk and needs assessment system . . . added by
section 101(a).” Id. § 102(b)(2).
Plaintiff's Incarceration and Projected Release
Robert Shipp is an Illinois resident currently in the custody
of the Bureau of Prisons. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 1.
In 1993, Shipp was convicted of multiple drug-related crimes
and sentenced to life imprisonment. See Id.
¶¶ 19-21; see generally Docket, United
States v. Shipp, No. 1993-cr-350 (N.D. Ill.).
Shipp's sentence was reduced to a thirty-year term of
imprisonment on February 26, 2015. Compl. ¶ 22.
According to Shipp, on May 7, 2019, the BOP calculated his
pre-First Step Act projected release date to be November 26,
2019, based on Shipp's remaining sentence adjusted for
his good time credit. Id. ¶ 25. As a result of
the First Step Act's extension of good time credit, Shipp
alleges that the BOP recalculated his projected release date
on June 12, 2019, to now provide for a “‘First
Step Act Release' date of July 19, 2019.”
Id. ¶ 27. However, Shipp also alleges that,
based on the projected good time credit he will have earned
as of July 19, 2019, his release date under the First Step
Act would be May 6, 2019. Id. ¶ 28. Shipp thus
contends that “the BOP has already recalculated [his]
sentence [pursuant to the First Step Act], but refuses to
apply that calculation until July 19th, thereby keeping him
confined for what will be 74 days beyond what BOP itself has
calculated to be his release date.” Id. ¶
filed a complaint against Hurwitz and the BOP pursuant to the
APA on June 14, 2019. See Compl. Shipp alleges that
18 U.S.C. § 3624(b), as amended by the First Step Act,
requires the BOP to recalculate good time credit for all
prisoners by crediting up to 54 days per year of each
prisoner's sentence, but that the BOP “continues to
calculate good time credit pursuant to [its old regulations]
. . . and refuses to apply the statutory change.”
Compl. ¶ 38. This, he contends, is agency action
unlawfully withheld pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 706(1), and
the Court should compel the BOP to comply with the revised
statute. See Id. ¶¶ 43, 44.
same day, Shipp filed a motion for a temporary restraining
order and preliminary injunction, asking the Court to compel
Defendants to recalculate the good time credit for all
prisoners in its custody and to begin releasing those with
release dates that have already passed. Pl.'s Emergency
Mot. TRO & Prelim. Inj. 1, ECF No. 2. Defendants filed
their opposition on June 24, 2019. Defs.' Opp'n, ECF
No. 6. Shipp filed his reply on June 27, 2019. Pl.'s
Reply, ECF No. 7. Shipp's motion is now ripe for review.
preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never
awarded as of right.” Winter v. Nat. Res. Def.
Council, 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008) (citing Munaf v.
Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008)). To obtain
preliminary injunctive relief, a plaintiff “must
establish  that he is likely to succeed on the merits, 
that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence
of preliminary relief,  that the balance of equities tips
in his favor, and  that an injunction is in the
public's interest.” Aamer v. Obama, 742
F.3d 1023, 1038 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Sherleyv. Sebelius, 644 F.3d 388, 392 (D.C. Cir. 2011)).
“[T]he movant has the burden to show that all four
factors, taken together, weigh in favor of the
injunction.” Abdullah v. Obama, 753 F.3d 193,
197 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Davis v. Pension Benefit
Guar. Corp., 571 F.3d 1288, 1292 (D.C. Cir. 2009)).
“The likelihood of success requirement is the most
important of these factors, ” Elec. Privacy Info.
Ctr. v. FTC, 844 F.Supp.2d 98, 101 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing
Biovail Corp. v. FDA, 448 F.Supp.2d 154, 159 (D.D.C.
2006)), and a court “need not proceed to review the
other three . . . factors” when a plaintiff has failed
to show likelihood of success on the merits, id.
(quoting Ark. Dairy Coop. Ass'n v. Dep't of
Agric., 573 F.3d 815, 832 (D.C. Cir. 2009)). Similarly,
“a court may refuse to issue an injunction without
considering any other factors when ...