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Wilson v. Smoot

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 13, 2019

EDDIE WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
J. PATRICIA WILSON SMOOT et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMY BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner appearing pro se, filed this action against the former Chairperson of the United States Parole Commission, two named Commissioners, and a named Examiner, all in their official capacities.[1] Compl. at 2. He claims that the Commission violated the Constitution's ex post facto and due process clauses by not determining his suitability for parole under the former D.C. Board of Parole's 1972 guidelines. Defendants have moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the grounds of res judicata and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The Court does not find the doctrine of res judicata to be applicable, but it agrees that plaintiff's claim fails on the merits. So it will grant defendants' motion for the reasons explained more fully below.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Parole Proceedings

         “Plaintiff is serving aggregate sentences imposed for a crime spree in 1975 consisting of kidnaping, robbery, burglary, rape, and first-degree murder, in violation of various portions of the District of Columbia Code, as well as for a 1978 violation of the United States Code for possession of a controlled substance in prison.” Wilson v. Fulwood, 772 F.Supp.2d 246, 250 (D.D.C. 2011) (Wilson I). Plaintiff had parole hearings in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2008, which were the subject of prior court actions. See Wilson, 772 F.Supp.2d at 251-56 (providing comprehensive discussion of the District's parole regulatory framework and the history of plaintiff's first four parole hearings); id. at 262, citing Wilson v. U.S. Parole Com'n, 2010 WL 569554 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 11, 2010) (“the Middle District of Pennsylvania adjudicated on the merits a habeas petition” where plaintiff “only challenged his 2004 and 2005 proceedings”).

         In addition, plaintiff had parole hearings in October 2010, September 2012, February 2015, and February 2018. Each time, the Commission applied the D.C. Board's 1987 guidelines, departed from the score indicating that plaintiff should be paroled, and denied parole upon concluding that plaintiff was “a more serious risk than shown by [his] point score.” Def's Exs. AD, Notices of Action (“NOA”) [Dkt. # 14-2].

         B. Origin of Claim

         The U.S. Parole Commission assumed responsibility over D.C. prisoners in 1998 as a result of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, Pub.L. No. 105-33, 111 Stat. 712, 734-37 (codified at D.C. Code §§ 24-101-142). See Fletcher v. Reilly, 433 F.3d 867, 870 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (discussing “Changes to Parole and Reparole Regulations for D.C. Code Offenders”). In May 2010, D.C. Code offenders who committed crimes before March 3, 1985, filed suit challenging on due process and ex post facto grounds the Commission's retroactive application of its 2000 guidelines to their parole proceedings, “instead of . . . the guidelines that were in place at the time of their offenses.” Daniel v. Fulwood, 766 F.3d 57, 58 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The district court granted the Commission's motion to dismiss, and the plaintiffs appealed. The D.C. Circuit held that the plaintiffs had plausibly claimed “that the 2000 Guidelines create a significant risk of prolonging their incarceration in comparison to the 1972 Guidelines” and remanded the case to the district court for factual development. Id. at 66. That decision “set in motion a series of events that ultimately ended with the Settlement Agreement” in which “the Commission through rulemaking agreed to apply the 1972 Guidelines to Plaintiffs.” Daniel v. Smoot, 316 F.Supp.3d 79, 84-85 (D.D.C. 2018).

         In a letter to plaintiff dated November 9, 2015, the Washington Lawyers' Committee informed plaintiff that the Commission had identified him “as someone who may be eligible to receive a new parole hearing using the 1972 DC Board of Parole guidelines.” Compl. Ex. A. The letter provided information about the Daniel case, listed the criteria for eligibility, and explained the procedures for obtaining a “special re-hearing[]” and requesting representation. Id. In a Notice of Action dated December 1, 2015, the Commission identified plaintiff as “eligible for a new determination;” voided the April 1, 2015 NOA that had scheduled plaintiff's “reconsideration hearing in February 2018;” and scheduled “a new rehearing . . . for the week of January 11, 2016, ” at which plaintiff's “case” would “be considered using the parole guidelines in the 1972 regulations of the former District of Columbia Board of Parole.” Compl. Ex. B.

         Plaintiff alleges that shortly after receiving the Commission's NOA, he completed the form application for parole. Compl. at 4. His case manager then informed him that she would “do a progress report, ” and the documents comprising the “parole package” were sent to the Commission. Compl. at 4; Ex. C. But “a few days before” the scheduled hearing in January, plaintiff's case manager told him that he was not on the docket to see the Commission, but she had no explanation for the omission. Compl. at 4. Plaintiff alleges that the Commission failed to respond to the case manager's email inquiry and his written inquiries regarding the cancelled hearing. Id. An NOA dated November 2, 2016, shows that the Commission voided the December 1, 2015 action and reinstated the April 1, 2015 NOA, listing as “Reasons:” “[p]er 28 C.F.R. § 2.80(p)(7), the Commission will continue to apply the D.C. Board of Parole's 1987 guidelines to your case.” Def.'s Ex. E at 2.

         Following a hearing on February 1, 2018, the Commission denied parole to plaintiff and scheduled a rehearing for three years later, in January 2021. Compl. Ex. E, Feb. 15, 2018 NOA. Plaintiff “continue[d] to be scored under the [D.C. Board's] 1987 guidelines.” Id. In a handwritten note on the foregoing exhibit, plaintiff stresses: “The pertinent part is the use of the 1987 guidelines in 2018.” Id.

         C. Requested Relief

         In the instant complaint filed on June 18, 2018, plaintiff seeks: (1) a declaratory judgment stating “that the defendants' acts, policies, practices and guidelines . . . violated” his constitutional rights; (2) “class action status under the Daniel v. Fulwood ruling, as an ex post facto member of that class” and a declaration that he is “a member of the settlement agreement”; and (3) “a new initial parole hearing from the defendants, using the 1972 guidelines in accordance with due process, and the settlement agreement, retroactively from the date of the December 1, 2015, notice of action.” Compl. at 8.

         LEGAL ...


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