TOBY v. GREEN
OPINION. Signed by Judge Susan D. Wigenton on 3/22/2017. (JB, ) (Main Document 7 replaced on 3/22/2017) (JB, ).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 16-8179 (SDW)
WIGENTON, District Judge:
Presently before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus of Petitioner, Brad
Toby, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 1). Following an order to answer (ECF No.
2), the Government filed a response to the Petition. (ECF No. 5). Petitioner chose not to file a
reply. For the following reasons, this Court will deny the petition without prejudice.
Petitioner, Brad Toby, is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago who entered this country on a
visitor visa in August 1994, with authorization to remain only until February 1995. (ECF No. 1 at
4). Petitioner, however, remained in the United States after the expiration of his visa. (See
Document 1 attached to ECF No. 5 at 4). During his overstay in this country, Petitioner has
received at least two drug convictions, the first being a November 2005 conviction for possession
with intent to distribute marijuana in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:355(b)(12) (see id.), and the second being a 2013 conviction for distribution and possession of
cocaine in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:35-5(a)(1) and 2C:35-5(b)(1). (Document 3 attached
to ECF No. 5 at 2-4). On June 17, 2013, Petitioner was sentenced to nine years imprisonment with
a four and a half year period of parole ineligibility for this latter drug offense. (Id.). Upon
Petitioner’s release from prison, Petitioner was taken into immigration custody on April 4, 2016.
(Document 4 attached to ECF No. 5). Petitioner has remained in immigration detention since that
Petitioner was originally scheduled to have his first appearance before an immigration
judge on May 3, 2016, but that hearing was postponed to permit Petitioner time to acquire counsel.
(Document 6 attached to ECF No. 5 at 3). Petitioner’s next hearing, which was scheduled for June
7, 2016, was also postponed to permit Petitioner to find an attorney. (Id. at 4). Although Petitioner
had acquired counsel by the next hearing date, which was July 6, 2016, that date was also
continued, this time so that Petitioner’s counsel could prepare. (Id.). Petitioner was thereafter
scheduled for a hearing on July 27, 2016, but that hearing was rescheduled so that an individual
merits hearing could be held. (Id.). That merits hearing was originally scheduled for November
28, 2016, but Petitioner’s counsel again requested a continuance, which resulted in the hearing
being rescheduled for February 22, 2017. (Id.). Neither party has provided the Court with any
information about what occurred at the February 2017 hearing. Because Petitioner requested
continuances at all of the hearings prior to February 2017, however, Petitioner had yet to file any
applications for relief from removal as of the time of the last filing in this matter. (See ECF No. 5
A. Legal Standard
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c), habeas relief may be extended to a prisoner only when he “is
in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
2241(c)(3). A federal court has jurisdiction over such a petition if the petitioner is “in custody”
and the custody is allegedly “in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490 (1989). As Petitioner is
currently detained within this Court’s jurisdiction, by a custodian within the Court’s jurisdiction,
and asserts that his continued detention violates due process, this Court has jurisdiction over his
claims. Spencer v. Lemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998); Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit Court, 410 U.S.
484, 494-95, 500 (1973); see also Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 699 (2001).
The parties essentially agree that Petitioner is not yet subject to a final order of removal,
and that he is therefore currently detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c). The propriety of
Petitioner’s continued detention is therefore controlled by the Third Circuit’s decisions in Diop v.
ICE/Homeland Sec., 656 F.3d 221, 231-35 (3d Cir. 2011), and Chavez-Alvarez v. Warden York
County Prison, 783 F.3d 469 (3d Cir. 2015). In Diop, the Third Circuit held that § 1226(c)
“authorizes detention for a reasonable amount of time, after which the authorities must make an
individualized inquiry into whether detention is still necessary to fulfill the statute’s purposes.”
656 F.3d at 231. The determination of whether a given period of detention is reasonable under the
circumstances is a fact specific inquiry “requiring an assessment of all of the circumstances of a
given case.” Id. at 234. Under Diop, the reasonableness of a period of detention is thus “a function
of whether it is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the statute.” Id.
Because of the fact intensive nature of the inquiry involved, the Diop court court did not
provide a specific length of time beyond which a petitioner’s detention would become
unreasonable based solely on the passage of time. See 656 F.3d at 234; see also Carter v. Aviles,
No. 13-3607, 2014 WL 348257, at *3 (D.N.J. Jan. 30, 2014). While the Third Circuit has refused
to adopt a bright line rule for determining the reasonableness of continued detention under §
1226(c), the Court of appeals did provide further guidance on that question in Chavez-Alvarez. In
Chavez-Alvarez, the Third Circuit held that, absent bad faith on the part of the petitioner,
“beginning sometime after the six-month timeframe [upheld by the Supreme Court in Demore [v.
Kim, 538 U.S. 510, 532-33 (2003),] and certainly by the time [the petitioner] had been detained
for one year, the burdens to [the petitioner’s] liberties outweighed any justification for using
presumptions to detain him without bond to further the goals of the statute.” 783 F.3d at 478.
In this case, the Government argues that, while Petitioner has at this point been held for
over eleven months without a bond hearing, the facts of this matter are clearly distinguishable from
those in Chavez-Alvarez and that Petitioner is therefore not entitled to relief through his current
habeas petition. In making that argument, the Government specifically argues that Petitioner has
been responsible for all of the delays in his immigration proceedings and that, because Petitioner
had failed to file for relief from removal with the immigration courts as of the date the answer was
filed in this matter, Petitioner has not yet provided a good faith basis for disputing his removal.
As this Court has explained,
the Third Circuit specifically held in Chavez-Alvarez that the
reasonableness of a given period of detention does not rely solely on
how the Government has conducted itself, and observed that the
“primary point of reference for justifying [an] alien’s confinement
must be whether the civil detention is necessary to achieve the
statute’s goals: ensuring participation in the removal process and
protecting the community from the danger [the alien] poses.” 783
F.3d at 475. Thus, detention can become unreasonable, and a
petitioner can be entitled to a bond hearing, even where the
Government itself acted reasonably and is not responsible for the
delays in the conclusion of an alien’s immigration proceedings. Id.
While the Third Circuit did observe that “certain cases might be
distinguishable [from Chavez-Alvarez where the alien is] merely
gaming the system to delay their removal,” and that the aliens in
such cases “should not be rewarded a bond hearing they would not
otherwise get under the statute,” Id. at 476, the Chavez-Alvarez
panel also observed that courts need not “decide whether an alien’s
delay tactics should preclude a bond hearing” where the court could
not conclude that the alien acted in bad faith. Id.
Determining whether an alien has acted in bad faith is not a
matter of “counting wins and losses,” but is instead a fact specific
inquiry requiring consideration of whether the alien has presented
“real issues” to the immigration court by raising factual disputes,
challenging poor legal reasoning, raising contested legal theories, or
presenting new legal issues. Id. “Where questions are legitimately
raised, the wisdom of [the Third Circuit’s] ruling in Leslie [v. Att’y
Gen. of the United States, 678 F.3d 265, 271 (3d Cir. 2012),] is
plainly relevant [and the court] cannot ‘effectively punish’ these
aliens for choosing to exercise their legal right to challenge the
Government’s case against them by rendering ‘the corresponding
increase in time of detention . . . reasonable.’” Id. Thus, the conduct
of the parties in a vacuum does not per se determine reasonableness,
and the Court must weigh all available relevant information in
determining whether the reasonableness “tipping point” has been
Rodriguez v. Green, No. 16-4431, 2016 WL 7175597, at *2-3 (D.N.J. Dec. 7, 2016).
Petitioner’s immigration proceedings are clearly distinguishable from both Chavez-Alvarez
and Leslie. According to the information provided to this Court, Petitioner has been responsible
for all of the delay in his immigration proceedings, and as of the filing of the answer, had yet to
raise any claims for relief from removal. Thus, although Petitioner has been held for a considerable
period of time, it cannot be said that Petitioner has presented any “real issues” to the immigration
courts sufficient to establish that he has been litigating his removal in good faith. See ChavezAlvarez, 783 F.3d at 486. It instead appears that Petitioner’s case is distinguishable from ChavezAlvarez or Leslie because Petitioner is merely “gaming the system to delay [his] removal” and
Petitioner should therefore “not be rewarded a bond hearing [he] would not otherwise get under
the statute.” Id. Because Petitioner has delayed the onset of his removal proceedings for months
on end, and because Petitioner had, as of the end of December 2016, failed to present any “real
issues” to the immigration courts sufficient to show that he was acting in good faith in delaying
his immigration proceedings, this Court finds that Petitioner’s detention is distinguishable from
that at issue in Leslie and Chavez-Alvarez, and that Petitioner is therefore not entitled to a bond
hearing at this time. Id. Petitioner’s habeas petition shall therefore be denied without prejudice.
For the reasons expressed above, this Court will deny Petitioner’s petition for a writ of
habeas corpus (ECF No. 1) without prejudice. An appropriate order follows.
Dated: March 22, 2017
s/ Susan D. Wigenton
Hon. Susan D. Wigenton,
United States District Judge
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