Phrance v. Johnson et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Claire C. Cecchi on 5/7/2015. (ld, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 14-7693 (CCC)
JEH JOHNSON, et a!.,
CECCHI, District Jud%e:
Presently before the Court is Petitioner Charles Phrance’s (“Petitioner”) Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§ 2241 (“Petition”). The Petition was originally filed in
the Southern District of New York, and per that court’s December 3, 2014 order, the case was
transferred to this Court. Petitioner is challenging his detention by immigration officials pursuant
to the mandatory detention statute under 8 U.S.C.
§ 1226(c). At this time, the Court must screen
the Petition in accordance with Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, applicable to
§ 2241 cases through Rule 1(b), to determine if the Petition should be dismissed because Petitioner
is not entitled to relief. For reasons stated below, the Court will allow the Petition to proceed.
Petitioner alleges in the Petition that he was detained by immigration officials on
September 11, 2013, pursuant to the mandatory detention statute under
§ 1226(c). (ECF No. 2 at
4.) The underlying offenses giving rise to the mandatory detention were two convictions for
possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree in violation of Section 220.03 of New
York penal law. Id. In one conviction, Petitioner was arrested on November 4, 2006, pled guilty,
and was sentenced to time served on the next day. Id. In the other conviction, Petitioner was
arrested on February 8, 2004, pled guilty, and received a conditional discharge the next day. Id.
At his initial hearing after detention, the Immigration Court determined that Petitioner was subject
to mandatory detention. Id. at 4-5. Petitioner asserts that he poses no threat to the community,
and that he is not a flight risk, arguments he also made to the Immigration Court. Id. at 6. There
is no allegation that Petitioner’s removal proceedings have been finalized and a final order of
Petitioner makes two claims for relief. First, Petitioner cites Southern District ofNew York
law, which states that “the plain language of the statute.
manifests Congress’ clear intent that
there must be a nexus between the date of release and the removable offense.” Louisaire v. luther,
758 F. Supp. 2d 229, 236 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (quoting Garcia v. Shanahan, 615 F. Supp. 2d 175, 182
(S.D.N.Y. 2009)). Because Petitioner’s detention came almost seven years after he was released
from the later of the two stated removable offenses, Petitioner asserts that his detention is contrary
to federal law. Petitioner’s second claim is simply that his prolonged detention is unconstitutional
by its sheer length.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the Petition under § 2241 because Petitioner
was detained within its jurisdiction in the custody of the DH$ at the time he filed his Petition, see
Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998), and he asserts that his detention violates federal law and
his constitutional rights. See Bonhometre v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 442, 445—46 (3d Cir. 2005).
“Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears
legally insufficient on its face.” McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); US. v. Thomas,
221 F.3d 430, 437 (3d Cir. 2000). Habeas Rule 4 requires a district court to examine a habeas
petition prior to ordering an answer and “[ijf it plainly appears from the petition and any attached
exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the
petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner.” 2$ U.S.C.
§ 2254 Rule 4, applicable through
Rule 1(b). Dismissal without the filing of an answer is warranted “if it appears on the face of the
petition that petitioner is not entitled to relief.” Id.; see also McFarland, 512 U.S. at $56; Thomas,
221 f.3d at 437 (habeas petition may be dismissed where “none of the grounds alleged in the
petition would entitle [the petitioner] to relief’).
A. Mandatory Detention
In his first claim, Petitioner relies on Southern District of New York precedent that requires
detention to be contemporaneous with release from the underlying offense that gave rise to
mandatory detention under
§ 1226(c). See Loulsaire, 758 F. Supp. 2d at 236. However, this Court
must abide by Third Circuit precedent.
In Sylvain v. Attorney General, the Third Circuit held that DHS retains the authority to take
aliens into mandatory detention under
§ 1226(c) even if it does not do so immediately upon their
release from criminal custody. 714 F.3d 150, 156-57 (3d Cir. 2013). “[M]andatory detention does
not require immediate detention.” Id. at 156. “Even if the statute calls for detention ‘when the
alien is released,’ and even if ‘when’ implies something less than four years, nothing in the statute
suggests that immigration officials lose authority if they delay.” Id. at 157.
Here, Petitioner admits that he was convicted and sentenced to an enumerated crime under
§ 1226(c), and that he was detained by DHS because of that conviction. (ECF No. 2 at 4.) Even
though Petitioner’s detention occurred almost seven years after his sentence and release from
incarceration, under Sylvain, DHS retains full authority to detain Petitioner pursuant to
no matter how much time has passed. As such, Petitioner is not entitled to relief on this ground.
B. Length of Detention
Petitioner further alleges that his detention is unconstitutional because he has been in
custody since September 11, 2013, which at present means Petitioner has already been in detention
for over 19 months. In Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York Cn(y. Prison, No. 14-1402, 2015 WL
1567019 (3d Cir. Apr. 9, 2015) (precedential), the Third Circuit held that “beginning sometime
after the six-month timeframe considered by Demore, and certainly by the time [petitioner] had
been detained for one year, the burdens to [petitioner]’s liberties outweighed any justification for
using presumptions to detain him without bond to further the goals of the statute.” Id. at *7• “We
conclude that the underlying goals of the statute would not have been, and will not now be
undermined by requiring the Government to produce individualized evidence that [petitioner]’s
continued detention was or is necessary.” Id.
Here, the Court finds the Petition has facially stated a claim that requires an answer from
Respondents pursuant to Rule 4. A 19-month detention without justification is more than three
times the six-month period that Chavez-Alvarez allows the government to detain someone under
1226(c) without justification, and certainly well over the one-year threshold when the presumption
of validity becomes untenable. As such, the Court will require Respondents to file an answer on
the issue of Petitioner’s prolonged detention.’
For the reasons set forth above, Petitioner’s claim based on the argument that mandatory
detention must be contemporaneous with release from the underlying offense is DISMISSED. All
The Court hereby dismisses all Respondents other than Oscar Aviles from the case. “[I]n
habeas challenges to present physical confinement ‘core challenges’ the default rule is that the
proper respondent is the warden of the facility where the prisoner is being held, not the Attorney
General or some other remote supervisory official.” Rumsfeld v. Paditla, 542 U.S. 426, 435
Respondents other than Oscar Aviles are DISMISSED. The Respondent shall file an Answer with
the Court justifying Petitioner’s continued detention under
Claire C. Cecchi, U.S.D.J.
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