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Logan v. Lindsay

November 22, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie


I. Introduction

Petitioner, Keon S. Logan, an inmate at the Canaan United States Penitentiary ("USP-Canaan") in Waymart, Pennsylvania, commenced this action with a prose petition for a writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. Entry 1) filed pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Respondents are the United States Parole Commission ("Commission") and the Warden of USP-Canaan, Cameron Lindsay. Logan is challenging the denial of parole. Respondents filed a response (Dkt. Entry 9) to the habeas petition, Petitioner has filed a traverse (Dkt. Entry 10), and the matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

II. Background

On December 18, 1998, Petitioner was sentenced by the District of Columbia ("D.C.") Superior Court to an aggregate term of imprisonment of fourteen (14) years for aggravated assault and carrying a firearm without a license. (Dkt. Entry 9-2 at 4.) Petitioner became eligible for parole on October 20, 2002, and the Commission conducted his initial parole hearing on October 9, 2001. (Id. at 6.) The Commission has formulated guidelines to facilitate parole decisions for D.C. Code offenders, and they are codified at 28 C.F.R. § 2.80. Under the guidelines, the prisoner is assigned a Salient Factor Score and a Base Point Score, calculated by adding applicable points from several categories. 28 C.F.R. § 2.80(b). At his initial hearing, the Commission calculated a Salient Factor Score of 7 for Petitioner, which resulted in the addition of one point to his Base Point Score. (Dkt. Entry 9-2 at 4.) To this, the Commission added two (2) points for violence in the current offense, and one (1) point for "high level violence," yielding a total score of four (4) points. (Id.) Under 28 C.F.R. § 2.80(h), a point score of 4 results in a Base Guideline Range of 12-18 months. The Commission then added 44 months, representing what the Commission initially determined to be the minimum amount of time Petitioner was required to serve prior to parole eligibility,*fn1 resulting in a Total Guideline Range of 56-62 months.*fn2

The Commission decided not to parole Petitioner within this range, but instead ordered a reconsideration hearing in thirty-six (36) months. (Id. at 12.) The Commission set forth the following reasons for its decision:

After consideration of all factors and information presented, a decision above the Total Guideline Range is warranted because you are a more serious risk than indicated by your Base Point Score in that your offense involved the unprovoked shooting of a victim after you pulled her into an alley and she refused your demands for her to engage in sexual [activity] with you. In addition, only four months earlier, you had committed an assault in Prince Georges County, Maryland. (Id. at 10.)

On November 16, 2004, Petitioner received a reconsideration hearing ("rehearing"). (Id. at 13). At the rehearing, the Commission recalculated Petitioner's Total Guideline Range from 56-62 months to 66-72 months (see n.1, supra), and Petitioner was again denied parole. He was set for a three-year reconsideration in November, 2007. The reasons for the guideline departure were those provided after the initial hearing.

Petitioner then brought this habeas corpus proceeding. He claims that the Commission: (1) acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of his due process rights; (2) improperly double-counted factors in denying parole; (3) failed to consider his program achievements; (4) did not show "good cause" for a decision outside the guideline range as required by 18 U.S.C. § 4206; and (5) violated his Equal Protection rights.

III. Discussion

A. Due Process Challenge

On August 5, 1998, the Commission assumed the responsibility of making parole-release decisions for all eligible District of Columbia Code felons, pursuant to section 11231 of the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33, and D.C. Code Ann. § 24-209, and the District of Columbia Parole Board was abolished. See D.C. Code Ann. § 24-131(a)(2) (formerly section 24-1231(a)(2)). The determination of eligibility for parole for a D.C. prisoner has thus been committed to the discretion of the Commission by Congress. SeeMuhammad v. Mendez, 200 F. Supp. 2d 466, 469-70 (M.D. Pa. 2002).

Since the Constitution itself does not create any liberty interest in parole, to prove a due process violation such an interest must emanate from state law, or in this case, District of Columbia law. SeeGreenholtz v. Nebraska Penal Inmates, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). "Courts have consistently held that the D.C. parole statute, which applies to D.C. Code offenders even after they are transferred to the jurisdiction of the Commission, does not create any liberty interest in parole." Muhammad, 200 F. Supp. 2d at 470. See, e.g., McRae v. Hyman, 667 A.2d 1356 (D.C. 1995) (holding that the District's parole scheme confers discretion to grant or deny parole, and the scoring system creates no liberty interest overriding the exercise of that discretion).

Nevertheless, the Commission's discretion is not limitless. "[T]he Due Process Clause contains a substantive component that bars certain arbitrary, wrongful government actions regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them." Foucha ...

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