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Redmond v. United States Parole Commission

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 4, 2019

JESSE R. REDMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jesse R. Redmond, proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendant United States Parole Commission (“Commission”) has infringed on his Fifth Amendment rights in various ways relating to the Commission's past denials of parole for Redmond. Pending before the Court is Defendant's [10] Motion to Dismiss, which argues in part that this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear this case on sovereign immunity grounds. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will GRANT Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Redmond was convicted in 1996 of first-degree sexual assault in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. See Redmond v. United States, 829 A.2d 229, 230 (D.C. 2003) (affirming conviction), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 914 (2004). Redmond became eligible for parole in 2011. Redmond v. Holland, No. 16-6521, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20556, at *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 10, 2017). At his initial hearing in July 2010, despite the applicable guidelines indicating that Redmond should be granted parole, the Commission denied parole. Id. It explained its departure by reasoning that there was a “reasonable probability” that Redmond would “not obey the law if released” and that his “release would endanger the public safety.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The Commission stated that he was “a more serious parole risk than” the guidelines indicated because the victim of the crime for which he had been convicted was a “74 year old woman [with] who[m] [he] engaged in sodomy and intercourse.” Id. (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Commission also based its decision on the grounds that Redmond had not completed any rehabilitative programs. Id. It denied his request to reconsider the denial of his parole. Id.

         At his second parole hearing on July 28, 2011, Redmond presented testimony indicating that he had completed a rehabilitative program, Moral Recognition Therapy. Id. at *2-3. The Commission once again denied parole, notwithstanding the hearing examiner's recommendation that parole be granted. Id. The Commission relied on the recommendation of an executive reviewer who emphasized that Redmond continued to insist on his innocence and thus had not accepted responsibility for his crime. Id. It denied Redmond's request for reconsideration and suggested he participate in either a sex offender treatment program or another comprehensive rehabilitative program. Id. at *3-4.

         Redmond's third parole hearing occurred on July 30, 2014. Id. at *4. Redmond presented testimony that he had participated in the Moral Recognition Therapy program for almost two years, had mentored other participants in the program, and had attended an anger management class. Id. at *4-5. Additional testimony indicated that he had not participated in a sex offender treatment program because none were available at his prison, and because he was ineligible for transfer to another prison with such a program. Id. The hearing examiner recommended parole, the executive reviewer disagreed, and the Commission again denied Redmond parole. Id. at *5. It based its decision on the “extreme cruelty to [Redmond's] victim, ” which it described as including not only “forcible vaginal rape” but also “rectal and oral sodomy, ” even though Redmond had been acquitted of the latter charges in 1996. Id. at *5-6 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Commission also found that denial was warranted because the Moral Recognition Therapy program was inadequate to reduce the risk that Redmond posed and because he continued to claim that he was innocent, which indicated that he was “not fully rehabilitated.” Id. at *6 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         After the Commission's denial of parole in 2011, Redmond filed a suit in federal court seeking damages and claiming that the denial had deprived him of his rights under the First and Fifth Amendments. Redmond v. Fulwood, No. 14-cv-0308, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54300, at *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2014), aff'd on other grounds, 859 F.3d 11 (D.C. Cir. 2017). The district court dismissed the suit and the D.C. Circuit affirmed on the basis that the former Chairman of the Commission, Isaac Fulwood, Jr., enjoyed qualified immunity as to each of Redmond's claims. Redmond v. Fulwood, 859 F.3d at 14.

         Subsequently, on August 7, 2015, Redmond filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, alleging that the Commission lacked a rational basis to deny him parole in 2014 based on several grounds. Redmond v. Holland, No. 15-141-KKC, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106716, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Aug. 12, 2016), rev'd, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20556; see Compl. ¶ 3. The district court denied his petition and found that the Commission's denial had “satisfie[d] the highly deferential standard of review accorded to parole determinations.” Redmond v. Holland, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106716, at *2; see Compl. ¶ 4. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the Commission did lack a rational basis to deny Redmond parole. Redmond v. Holland, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 20556, at *11; see Compl. ¶¶ 5-7.

         The Commission conducted a new parole hearing for Redmond on April 13, 2017. Compl. ¶ 8. He was granted parole on July 7, 2017 and released on December 2, 2017. Id. Redmond subsequently filed this suit against the Commission on September 25, 2018.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges a court's jurisdiction to hear the case. “Under Rule 12(b)(1), the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court-plaintiff in the present action-bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 169-70 (D.D.C. 2007), aff'd, No. 07-5328, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 6642 (D.C. Cir. Mar. 17, 2008). In determining whether the court has jurisdiction, “the court need not limit itself to the allegations of the complaint, ” and “may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the case.” Chandler v. Roche, 215 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (D.D.C. 2002).

         “At the motion to dismiss stage, counseled complaints, as well as pro se complaints, are to be construed with sufficient liberality to afford all possible inferences favorable to the pleader on allegations of fact.” Settles v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1106 (D.C. Cir. 2005). “The court need not, however, accept inferences unsupported by the facts alleged or legal conclusions that are cast as factual allegations.” Chandler, 215 F.Supp.2d at 168. And because a court has an affirmative obligation to determine whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction, “plaintiff['s] factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.”[3] Wright, 503 F.Supp.2d at 170 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Courts construe pro se pleadings liberally and must hold pro se complaints “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Construed in this light, Redmond's Complaint brings claims against the Commission under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the basis that the Commission infringed on Redmond's Fifth Amendment rights, [4] and specifically his “liberty interest” in parole, in five ways: (1) by denying his parole despite the Commission's lack of a rational basis, Compl. ¶ 9; (2) by referring to his actions as including rectal and oral sodomy when Redmond was acquitted of such charges, Compl. ¶ 10; (3) by denying his parole because he had not completed a sex offender treatment program despite his participation in the Moral Recognition Therapy program, Compl. ¶ 11; (4) by denying his parole on the basis that he had not accepted responsibility for his crimes, Compl. ¶ 12; and (5) by failing to “immediate[ly] release” Redmond following the Sixth Circuit's decision finding that the Commission ...


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