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Jimenez v. Holt

August 2, 2007

RAFAEL D. DE LA CRUZ JIMENEZ, PETITIONER,
v.
RONNIE R. HOLT, WARDEN, USP CANAAN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Petitioner's pro se Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, or in the alternative, Writ of Prohibition. (Doc. 1.) Also pending is Petitioner's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 3.) Petitioner challenges his custody classification based on the existence of a detainer issued against Petitioner by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on August 7, 2002. Petitioner argues that this detainer does not in fact exist, and that Respondent has unlawfully and improperly replied upon the existence of a detainer in precluding Petitioner from receiving a lower security classification or participating in certain unspecified rehabilitation programs.

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 1361 ("[t]he district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff.").

BACKGROUND

Petitioner is a citizen of the Dominican Republic who was sentenced to a term of 360 months in prison for drug-related offense(s), and has been incarcerated at U.S.P. Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania since approximately October 18, 2003.

The Petitioner argues that for nearly a year prior to filing the instant Petition, he has requested service of the detainer, and that these requests have been repeatedly denied. The Petition requests that Respondent, Warden Ronnie R. Holt, provide Petitioner with satisfaction of his Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection by "correct[ing] his classification records" to show that no "INS detainer" exists against him, because Petitioner alleges that he has never been served paperwork regarding this detainer. (Pet., Doc. 1, pp. 1-2.) Petitioner alleges that Respondent has refused to correct Petitioner's classification records, and is using the "false record of a detainer to authorized (sic) discrimination and denys (sic) him equal protection as allowed all others identically situated." Id.

The Petition for Writ of Mandamus was filed on July 18, 2007. (Doc. 1.) The motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) was filed on July 26, 2007. (Doc. 3.) These filings are presently before the Court.

DISCUSSION

A. Motion For Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis

The decision whether to grant or deny in forma pauperis status rests within the sound discretion of the district court. See Jones v. Zimmerman, 752 F.2d 76, 78 (3d Cir. 1985). Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 1915 provides a two-step process for reviewing in forma pauperis petitions. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear that this Court should first consider a litigant's financial status and determine whether he is eligible to proceed in forma pauperis, before assessing the merits of the underlying complaint. Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 n. 1 (3d Cir. 1990).

Petitioner has completed the IFP application, and has properly provided certification of his prisoner account balance. According to the IFP application, he receives approximately $3.00-5.00 per month for the prison work detail he performs, and has no cash, property or other assets. Though the report date on the attached 'Inmate Statement' is illegible, the final entry shows Petitioner's prison account balance at $0.32 on July 3, 2007. Assuming this to be an accurate depiction of Mr. Jimenez's complete financial situation, it is the Court's opinion that he qualifies for IFP status because he has made an adequate showing of poverty. The Court will therefore grant the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but only for the purpose of filing the instant Petition.

B. Writ of Mandamus

Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy to be utilized only in the clearest and most compelling cases. See Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S. 602, 616 (1984). A petitioner seeking the issuance of such writ must establish that he has no other adequate means of relief and, most importantly, that his or her right to the writ of mandamus is clear and indisputable. Kerr v. United States Dist. Court, 426 U.S. 394, 403 (citations omitted). Thus, mandamus is available to Petitioner only if he shows that (1) he has a clear right to the relief sought, (2) Respondent has a clear duty to perform, and (3) no other adequate remedy is available. See Brow v. United States Dist. Court, 121 Fed. Appx. 443, 444 (3d Cir. 2005). Indeed, the critical consideration in determining the propriety of resort to a writ of mandamus is the question of alternative remedies; the writ is usually denied when such alternatives exist. Therefore, prior to seeking relief in district court, a federal prisoner must exhaust administrative remedies provided by the regulations promulgated by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, regardless of whether said prisoner also asserts a claim for damages, as Petitioner has done here. Veteto v. Miller, 794 F.2d 98, 100 (3d Cir. 1986). Pursuant to authority conferred on him by the Attorney General in Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 0.96(t), the Director of the Bureau of Prisons has promulgated regulations ("the Administrative Remedy Program") providing for a three-stage system for considering prisoners' grievances and ...


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