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Warren v. United States Parole Commission

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

November 8, 2018

Morris J. Warren, Petitioner,
United States Parole Commission, et al., Respondents.



         Morris J. Warren ("Warren" or "petitioner"), a federal inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when the United States Parole Commission ("USPC") declined to release him on parole in 2017. The matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed jointly by respondents USPC; J. Ray Ormond, the Warden of FCC Petersburg, petitioner's current place of confinement; and Mark Bolster, FCC Petersburg's Associate Warden. Petitioner has responded to the motion. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         Warren is presently serving a 15-year-to-life sentence in federal custody for multiple convictions entered in D.C. Superior Court. On October 18, 2017, the USPC considered Warren for parole and, as it had done in several earlier reviews, declined to release him after finding it reasonably probable that he would not obey the law if released and that his release likely would endanger public safety. The decision was based on Warren's commission of his current offenses while on parole for prior crimes of robbery and assault, his separate Maryland conviction for murder, and his refusal to participate in sex offender treatment. Resp. Ex. 3, Notice of Action 11/9/2017. In his petition, Warren seeks immediate release on the grounds that the USPC violated his constitutional rights and exceeded its authority in denying him parole. Specifically, Warren argues that the USPC erred by considering that he committed his current offenses while on parole for previous offenses, on the ground that the parole regulations do not list "instant offenses" as a basis for denying parole. He also contends that the USPC failed to consider his culpability in the crimes for which he was convicted, his institutional achievements, and administrative responses from the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") regarding his psychological evaluations and sex offender treatment.

         Warren initially filed this petition in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The petition was transferred to this court in May 2018, and respondents filed the Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting memorandum now under consideration on July 23, 2018. [Dkt. Nos. 9 -10] Petitioner submitted his opposition on August 14, 2018 [Dkt. No. 12], [1] and respondents filed a reply memorandum on August 20, 2018. [Dkt. No. 13] On September 5, 2018, Warren submitted a Traverse Response to the Respondents' Memorandum of So Call Law [Dkt. No. 15]; on September 13, 2018, respondents moved to strike the Traverse Response [Dkt. No. 17], and their motion will be granted for reasons to be discussed below.[2]

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56

         Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial burden of showing that there are no genuine, material factual disputes and that it is entitiled to judgment based on those facts. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has met its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to point out the specific facts which create disputed issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp, .. 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate only where no material facts are genuinely disputed and the evidence as a whole could not lead a rational factfinder to rule for the non-moving party. Matsushita. 475 U.S. at 587.

         B. Judicial Review of USPC Decisions

         "[J]udicial review of parole decisions is extremely limited." Harris v. Stansberry, No. 1:10cvl337, 2012 WL 27437, at *4 (E.D. Va. Jan. 4, 2012) (Cacheris, J.). Because "the Parole Act specifically commits the decision to grant or deny parole to the unreviewable discretion of the Parole Commission," Garcia v. Neasle, 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir. 1981), a USPC "parole determination is only reviewable if the Commission 'exceeded its legal authority, acted unconstitutionally, or failed to follow its own regulations' when reaching its determination." Harris, 2012 WL 27437, at *4 (quoting Garcia. 660 F.2d at 988).

         III. Undisputed Material Facts[3]

         Uncontested evidence supplied by respondents establishes the following pertinent facts. Warren is presently serving an aggregate sentence of 15 years to life for his convictions of kidnapping while armed, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of rape, and one count of assault to commit sodomy. Resp. Ex. 2 at 1 - 2. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed all of the convictions. See Warren v. United States, 515 A.2d 208.209 (D.C. 1986) (per curiam). When Warren committed those offenses, he was on parole from an earlier Youth Corrections Act sentence for robbery and assault convictions. Resp. Ex. 2 at 2. In addition, Warren was convicted in the Circuit Court for Calvert County, Maryland of first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, attempted robbery with a deadly weapon, and use of a handgun during the commission of a crime of violence. See Warren v. State, 350 A.2d 173, 175 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1976) (affirming all convictions). A sentence of life imprisonment was imposed in Maryland, and a detainer has been filed to which he would be turned over if paroled from the D.C. sentence he is currently serving. Resp. Ex. 2 at 3; see Warren v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 145 Fed.Appx. 715, 716 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam).

         On May 2, 1995 the D.C. Board of Parole held an initial parole hearing for Warren and issued a notice of action to deny him parole. Resp. Ex. 3 at 1. The USPC issued notices of denial on eleven additional occasions between 2000 and 2014, the most recent issuing on November 9, 2017. Id. In the latest notice of action, which is the only one under consideration here, [4] the USPC explained that although Warren's institutional record since his last hearing was "0," which generally would indicate that parole should be granted, it concluded that "a departure from the guidelines ... is found warranted because the Commission finds there is a reasonable probability that [Warren] would not obey the law if released and [his] release would endanger the public safety." Id. The USPC provided three reasons for departing from the guidelines: (1) Warren was on parole for robbery and assault when he committed the rape, sodomy and kidnapping offenses involving three different victims, ...

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