Cohen v. Quarles
MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 8/31/2016. (c/m 9/1/2016)(ko, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
JEFFREY COHEN #58021-037, in his personal *
capacity and as sole shareholder of RB
Entertainment Ventures, LLC
WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., United States
Civil Action No. ELH-16-2943
Plaintiff Jeffrey Cohen, currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional InstitutionHazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, has filed a Complaint for Declaratory Relief against
Defendant William D. Quarles, Jr., a retired member of this Bench. ECF 1. In addition to his
Complaint, which Cohen filed on behalf of himself and as sole shareholder in RB Entertainment
Ventures, LLC., Cohen submitted a lengthy memorandum (ECF 1-2) and a Motion for Leave to
File in Forma Pauperis (“IFP”). ECF 2. His IFP motion shall be granted, subject to partial fee
payments mandated by 28 U.S.C. '1915(b)(1).
The matters alleged in the Complaint are intertwined with events culminating in Cohen’s
current incarceration. On June 5, 2015, during a jury trial at which Judge Quarles was presiding,
Cohen decided to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, false
statements, and obstruction of justice (threatening an attorney). See United States v. Cohen, 140310 (D. Md.) (ECF 385; ECF 389). Cohen’s Complaint in this case appears to call into
question the trial court’s reliance at sentencing on the Government’s construction of the offenses
(resulting in the sentence imposed), rather than Cohen’s interpretation of the plea agreement
which, Cohen submits, would have resulted in “an offense level commensurate with a maximum
sentence of only six months.” ECF 1-2 at 4. In other words, the Complaint appears to challenge
Cohen’s plea agreement and the resulting sentence of 444 months, imposed by Judge Quarles on
December 10, 2015. See United States v. Cohen, 14-0310 (D. Md.) (ECF 590; ECF 594).
The request for declaratory judgment turns on Cohen’s argument that Judge Quarles
knowingly violated Cohen’s due process rights. Cohen asks that this court “prevent any further
use of . . . false and misleading information.” ECF 1 at 3. He also states that his Complaint “is
not a request for relief pursuant to U.S.C. § 1983” and is not intended to “impugn the conviction
in the criminal matter” or “provide an immediate or speedier release from confinement…” ECF
1 at 2-3.
Cohen’s Complaint is an improper invocation of the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28
U.S.C. § 2201. “The Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934 . . . is an enabling Act, which confers a
discretion on the courts rather than an absolute right upon the litigant.” Pub. Serv. Comm’n of
Utah v. Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 241 (1952); see Ellis v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp., 699 F.3d
778, 788 (4th Cir. 2012).
And, although “this discretion should be liberally exercised to
effectuate the purposes of the statute and thereby afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity
with respect to rights, status and other legal relations,” Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Quarles, 92 F.2d
321, 324 (4th Cir. 1937), the circumstances surrounding the instant case militate against allowing
a declaratory judgment action to proceed. As the Fourth Circuit said in Aetna, id., the court’s
should not be exercised for the purpose of trying issues involved in cases already
pending, especially where they can be tried with equal facility in such cases, or
for the purpose of anticipating the trial of an issue in a court of co-ordinate
jurisdiction. The object of the statute is to afford a new form of relief where
needed . . . .
See also Jud. Code, Sec. 274d, 28 U.S.C.A. 400.
The proper forum for Cohen to attack his guilty plea and resulting sentence is in the
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Indeed, his appeal is currently pending in
that court. See Docket.
I decline to exercise my discretion to entertain the claim for declaratory relief. The
Complaint will be dismissed by separate Order, which follows.
August 31, 2016
Ellen L. Hollander
United States District Judge
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