Bostic v. Mansukhani et al
Judge Richard G. Stearns: ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. This action is DISMISSED. [Copy of order mailed to petitioner on 11/16/2017.](PSSA, 3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-12132-RGS
ANDREW MANSUKHANI and MATTHE MELLADY
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
November 16, 2017
For the reasons stated below, the court dismisses this action.
James Bostic, who is incarcerated at FMC Devens, has filed a
pleading captioned as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 and paid $5.00 for the filing fee. Bostic alleges that, while he was
incarcerated at FCC Butner, prison staff members were negligent by failing
to secure his personal property while he was in the special housing unit. As
a result of this alleged misconduct, Bostic’s property was stolen. On March
3, 2017, Bostic filed with the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) an administrative
tort claim concerning the loss of his property. The government denied the
claim, concluding that there was not any evidence of negligence on the part
of any BOP staff member. Bostic seeks $663.95 in damages.
The petition has not been served pending the court’s preliminary
review of the pleading. See 28 U.S.C. § 2243.
Habeas corpus review is available under § 2241 if a person is “in
custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) (emphasis added). “[T]he essence of habeas
corpus is an attack by a person in custody upon the legality of that custody,
and . . . the traditional function of the writ is to secure release from illegal
custody.” Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). “Challenges to
the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are
the province of habeas corpus; requests for relief turning on circumstances
of confinement may be presented in a [non-habeas action].” Muhammad
v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750 (2004).
Here, habeas relief is not available. Bostic is not challenging the fact
or duration of his confinement.
He complains of the loss of personal
property due to the alleged negligence of BOP staff members. Accordingly,
the court must deny Bostic’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Federal Tort Claims Act
Bostic’s pleading also fails when construed as a non-habeas civil
The Federal Employees Reform and Tort Compensation Act of 1988,
or the “Westfall Act,” 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b) provides that a suit against the
United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) is the exclusive
remedy “for injury or loss of property, or personal injury or death arising or
resulting from the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of
the Government while acting within the scope of his office.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2679(b)(1). 1 The FTCA waives the United States’ sovereign immunity for
claims arising out of torts committed by federal employees, see 28 U.S.C.
1346(b)(1), but, as relevant here, excludes from that waiver “[a]ny claim
arising in respect of . . . the detention of any goods, merchandise, or other
property . . . by any officer of customs or excise or any other law
enforcement officer,” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c).
Westfall Act does not apply to an action against a government
employee “(A) which is brought for a violation of the Constitution of the
United States; or (B) which is brought for a violation of a statute on the
United States under which such action against an individual is otherwise
authorized.” 28 U.S.C. § 2679(b)(2). Neither of these exceptions applies in
the circumstances alleged by Bostic.
Bostic’s cause of action falls within this waiver exclusion of the FTCA.
For purposes of the FTCA, a BOP officer is a “law enforcement officer.” Ali
v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 552 U.S. 214, 227-228 (2008). Further, “‘any
claim arising in respect of’ the detention of goods means any claim ‘arising
out of’ the detention of goods, and includes a claim resulting from negligent
handling or storage of detained property.” Kosak v. United States, 465 U.S.
848, 854 (1984). Here, Bostic’s claim that BOP officers negligently failed to
protect his property from theft while he was segregation is a claim arising
out of the negligent handling or storage of his property. See, e.g., Brown v.
United States, 384 Fed. Appx. 815, 818 (10th Cir. 2010) (holding that
§ 2680(c) barred claim against BOP officer who allegedly allowed inmates
to rifle through and steal property of inmate who was in segregation).
Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED.
/s/ Richard G. Stearns
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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