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Woods v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 29, 2014

Reuben B. Woods, Petitioner,
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Respondent.

Ruben B. Woods, Pro Se, for Petitioner.

Gregory G. Brooker, Assistant United States Attorney, for Respondent.


FRANKLIN L. NOEL, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Petitioner Ruben B. Woods' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (ECF No. 1) under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Woods sought immediate release from United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention while pending removal from the Untied States. This matter was referred to the undersigned for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons set forth below, this Court recommends that the Petition be DENIED as moot and that this action be dismissed.


On April 1, 2013, Woods filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that he was detained by ICE in violation of his rights under federal law and the Constitution. ECF No. 1. Specifically, Woods claimed that his detention, which had spanned a period of over 10 months, was unconstitutional under the principles set forth in Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001).[1] At the time the Petition was filed, Woods was detained in the Caver County Jail. ECF No. 1. On April 5, 2013, in accordance with Respondent's custodial review procedures, Respondent released Woods from custody subject to several supervisory terms and conditions. See Decl. of Gregory G. Brooker, Ex. A, ECF No. 5.


Article III of the Constitution grants federal courts jurisdiction over ongoing cases and controversies. Ali v. Cangemi, 419 F.3d 722, 723 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Haden v. Pelofsky, 212 F.3d 466, 469 (8th Cir. 2000)). An actual controversy must exist at all stages of review, not merely at the time a complaint is filed. Potter v. Norwest Mortgage, Inc., 329 F.3d 608, 611 (8th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "When, during the course of litigation, the issues presented in a case lose their life because of the passage of time or a change in circumstances... and a federal court can no longer grant effective relief, the case is considered moot." Ali, 419 F.3d at 723-24 (internal citations omitted).

Generally, in a habeas case, a petitioner's release from custody does not automatically render a habeas petition moot. Sayonkon v. Beniecke, No. 12-cv-27 MJD/JJK, 2012 WL 1621149, at *2 (D.Minn. Apr. 17, 2012) (citing Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998)). Whether a petition is moot subsequent to a prisoner's release rests on the potential application of exceptions to the mootness doctrine. Id. The Court should not dismiss a petition as moot if any of the following exceptions apply: "(1) secondary or collateral' injuries survive after resolution of the primary injury; (2) the issue is deemed a wrong capable of repetition yet evading review; (3) the defendant voluntarily ceases an allegedly illegal practice but is free to resume it at any time; or (4) it is a properly certified class action suit." Riley v. I.N.S., 310 F.3d 1253, 1257 (10th Cir. 2002) (quoting Chong v. District Dir., INS, 264 F.3d 378, 384 (3d Cir. 2001)). As none of the mootness doctrine exceptions apply to the instant action, the Petition should be denied as moot.

First, no collateral consequences pertain to Wood's supervised release. Collateral consequences exist when a continuing injury remains "other than the now-ended incarceration or parole." Sayonkon, 2012 WL 1621149, at *2 (quoting Spencer, 523 U.S. at 7). Woods could potentially argue that the conditions specified in his Order of Supervision are collateral consequences different and apart from his former detention.[2] See Id. (suggesting that a petitioner may contend that imposed conditions of release are collateral consequences under the mootness doctrine). Yet this argument is misplaced as "the collateral-consequences exception does not apply where such conditions follow from the final order of removal and not from the allegedly prolonged detention itself." Id. (internal citations omitted). Furthermore, conditions placed on individuals awaiting removal "satisfy due process because they are rationally related to the legitimate government interests of reducing the number of absconding aliens' and accounting for and being able to produce any alien who becomes removable.'" Id. (internal citations omitted).

Second, Wood's detention does not meet the narrow mootness exception of being capable of repetition yet evading review. See Randolph v. Rodgers, 170 F.3d 850, 856 n.7 (8th Cir. 1999) (identifying this mootness doctrine exception as "extraordinary and narrow"). This exception applies when "there is a reasonable expectation the complaining party will be subject to the same action again." Id. (citing Hickman v. Missouri, 144 F.3d 1141, 1143 (8th Cir. 1998)). No evidence before this Court suggests that Woods will again be detained by ICE for a lengthy duration. According to the conditions governing Woods' release, Woods will remain at large, subject to supervision by ICE, until documents are obtained to effectuate removal.[3]

Third, the voluntary cessation exception is not applicable. Under this exception, "voluntary cessation of offensive conduct will only moot litigation if it is clear that the defendant has not changed course simply to deprive the court of jurisdiction." Sayonkon, 2012 WL 1621149, at *4 (quoting Nat'l Adver. Co. v. City of Miami, 402 F.3d 1329, 1333 (11th Cir. 2005)). Here, there is no indication that Respondents released Woods from custody with the sole purpose of divesting this Court's review of the Petition on the merits.

Finally, this case is not a class action. The fourth mootness exception is therefore irrelevant.

In sum, Woods' petition sought release from ICE custody. Because ICE has previously released Woods and the mootness doctrine exceptions are inapplicable to the case at hand, no case or controversy exists under Article III. This Court can no longer grant ...

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