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Roberts v. Ormond

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

February 15, 2019

MICHAEL JOSE ROBERTS, #10178-087, Petitioner,
J. RAY ORMOND, Warden, Respondent.



         Petitioner Michael Jose Roberts ("Petitioner" or "Roberts") filed a pro se habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking to have his Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") record altered so that he could be housed in a lower security facility during the remainder of his federal sentence for distributing heroin. Because Roberts's recent custody reclassification as a "minimum security inmate" has mooted his claims, the undersigned recommends that Respondent's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED and that the Petitioner's habeas petition be DENIED and DISMISSED.


         On June 15, 2018, Roberts filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, requesting that the Court order certain information contained in his BOP record be removed because it prejudiced his ability to obtain a better custody classification. The erroneous classification, he argued, prevented him from being able to transfer to a minimum security camp during the remainder of his sentence. Pet. (ECF No. 1 at 5-7).

         On August 20, 2018, FCC Petersburg's Complex Case Management Coordinator "reduced Roberts's 'custody classification' to 'high' to make him a 'minimum security inmate' eligible for a camp." Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss (ECF No. 11 at 1). Once Roberts's security level was reclassified to "minimum security," consideration of his potential transfer "to a lower level institution" was required. Mem. 1-2 (citing Ex. 3, BOP Program Statement P5100.07 ch. 7, p. 3) ("[I]f an inmate in a Low security level institution is reclassified to Minimum security, the case must be referred for transfer or application of a Management Variable.").

         On September 17, 2018, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, Mot. Dismiss (ECF No. 10), arguing that in light of his recent reclassification, Roberts had received his requested relief. Mem. 1. In his Memorandum, Respondent warned Roberts that if he chose to transfer to a camp at this point during his sentence, Roberts would "forfeit a reduction in his sentence" for his current participation in the RDAP program.[1] Mem. 2. Petitioner did not file a response, and the time to respond has since expired.

         IL ANALYSIS

         The doctrine of justiciability recognizes that federal jurisdiction is proper over active cases or controversies. U.S. Const, art. Ill. § 2. Mootness, a subset of this doctrine, requires that such cases or controversies be "live" and that the parties possess "a legally cognizable interest in the [case's] outcome" so that such cases may be properly adjudicated. See Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496 (1969). Where an "intervening factual . . . event[] effectively dispel[s] the case or controversy ... the federal courts are powerless to decide the questions presented." Ross v. Reed. 719 F.2d 689, 693-94 (4th Cir. 1983). Such cases are rendered moot, and courts lack jurisdiction to decide them. Id.

         Roberts's claim in his § 2241 habeas petition is moot because Roberts has already obtained his requested relief and no longer has a legally cognizable interest in the case's outcome. In his Petition, Roberts claimed that "erroneous," "incomplete, inaccurate," and "egregious information" in his BOP record disqualified him from obtaining a lower custody classification. Pet. (ECF No. 1 at 5). Specifically, he argued that the mention of the death of another in connection with his drug distribution charges, although not used to compute his guideline calculation, was preventing him from obtaining a better security classification. Pet. (ECF No. 1 at 4-5).

         As a result of his custody reclassification on August 20, 2018, however, Roberts became a "'minimum security inmate' eligible for a camp," and his case required referral to evaluate transfer to a "minimum security level institution." Mem. (ECF No. 11 at 1-2) (citing Ex. 3, BOP Program Statement P5100.08 ch. 7, pp. 3, 8-9). Now that Roberts has become eligible to transfer to a minimum security camp, the relief he requested in his Petition has been obtained, and the court has no authority to provide any further relief. His claim has been rendered moot by the reclassification.

         While two primary exceptions to the mootness doctrine exist, neither applies in this case. The first exception pertains to issues that are "capable of repetition, yet evade review." Spencer v. Kemna. 523 U.S. 1, 17 (1998). Such issues arise only where "(1) the challenged action [is] in its duration too short to be fully litigated prior to cessation or expiration, and (2) there [is] a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party [will] be subject to the same action again." Id. (alterations in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Lewis v. Cont'l Bank Corp.. 494 U.S. 472, 481 (1990)). Here, Roberts's claims satisfy neither of these criteria. First, his claims are not such that the duration between their introduction and expiration will always evade review. See Id. at 18 (holding that the mootness exception did not apply because Petitioner had not shown that "the time between parole revocation and expiration of sentence is always so short as to evade review"). And second, considering that petitioner received his desired reclassification despite the language contained in his BOP file, it is unlikely that he will be confronted with the same issue a second time. See Murphy v. Hunt. 455 U.S. 478, 482-83 (1982) (indicating that this prong of the exception requires that Petitioner show a "reasonable expectation" or "demonstrated probability" that he will be subject to the same course of events)).

         The second exception is the "collateral consequences" doctrine. It applies frequently in habeas challenges where "some of the consequences of a felony conviction . . . remain, despite the fact that the defendant has been released from jail." Samsung Elecs. Co. v. Rambus. Inc., 398 F.Supp.2d 470, 477 (E.D. Va. 2005) (quoting Horizon Bank & Trust Co. v. Massachusetts. 391 F.3d 48, 54 (1st Cir. 2004)). Because Roberts's petition did not challenge his underlying felony, and because he has received the security reclassification he requested, this exception does not apply.

         Therefore, neither exception to the mootness doctrine applies, and Roberts's request that his BOP file be amended to exclude certain language he requested in his § 2241 petition is moot.

         III. ...

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