United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Jesse R. Redmond, Jr., Appellant
Isaac Fulwood, Jr., Former Chairman, United States Parole Commission, Appellee
November 15, 2016
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:14-cv-00308)
C. Wolff, appointed by the court, argued the cause as amicus
curiae in support of appellant. With him on the briefs was
Kathryn L. Clune.
C. Pfaffenroth, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for
appellee. With him on the brief was R. Craig Lawrence,
Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Before: Rogers, Brown and Millett, Circuit Judges.
Millett, Circuit Judge.
Redmond, Jr. was convicted of sexual assault under District
of Columbia law. He was twice denied parole by the United
States Parole Commission. Alleging that his denials of parole
were infected by unconstitutional decisionmaking, Redmond
filed suit against the then-Chair of the Commission, Isaac
Fulwood, Jr., in his personal capacity. The district court
dismissed the case sua sponte, concluding that
parole commissioners are entitled to absolute immunity from
such lawsuits. We affirm, albeit on the ground that Fulwood
is entitled to qualified immunity. We leave for another day
the question of whether parole commissioners merit absolute
immunity as a matter of law.
R. Redmond, Jr. was convicted in the District of Columbia in
1996 of one count of first-degree sexual assault, and
acquitted of one count of oral sodomy and one count of anal
sodomy. He was sentenced to serve fifteen years to life in
prison. Fifteen years after his conviction, in 2011, Redmond
became eligible for parole. He was denied parole both at his
2010 pre-eligibility hearing and in a subsequent hearing held
in 2011. The 2011 denial occurred despite the Hearing
Examiner's finding that Redmond should be paroled under
the applicable parole guidelines.
with his parole denials and without any option to appeal,
Redmond brought suit against the then-Chairman of the United
States Parole Commission, Isaac Fulwood, Jr., in his personal
capacity, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents
of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388
(1971).The district court sua
sponte dismissed Redmond's complaint under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), 1915A(b)(2), holding that Fulwood is
absolutely immune from suit for acts taken in the course of
his duties as Chairman of the United States Parole
appealed to this court, and we now affirm. We do so, however,
because Fulwood is entitled to qualified immunity for each of
the claims in Redmond's complaint. Accordingly, we need
not and do not reach the question of whether Fulwood is
entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken during his
tenure as Chairman of the United States Parole Commission.
See Taylor v. Reilly, 685 F.3d 1110, 1113 (D.C. Cir.
2012) ("Because we conclude that the [Parole Commission]
defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, we do not
address the issue of absolute immunity."); see also
Radtke v. Caschetta, 822 F.3d 571, 573 n.2 (D.C. Cir.
2016) ("[W]e are free to affirm the lower court on
alternative grounds.") (citing RSM Prod. Corp. v.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer U.S. LLP, 682 F.3d 1043,
1045 n.2 (D.C. Cir. 2012)).
are required to dismiss complaints in civil actions "in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity, " and the
complaint "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A;
see also id. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Accordingly,
a prisoner's civil complaint is properly dismissed
sua sponte if the person the prisoner seeks to sue
is protected by either qualified or absolute immunity.
See, e.g., Reynolds v. Morrison, No.
16-5151, 2016 WL 7438665, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 22, 2016)
(affirming dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) because
defendants were entitled to judicial immunity); cf.
Thompson v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 492 F.3d 428, 435
(D.C. Cir. 2007) (noting that qualified immunity is a basis
for dismissal of prisoner complaints under 28 U.S.C. §
immunity shields federal and state officials from suits for
money damages unless a plaintiff shows both that (i) the
official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and
(ii) that right was "clearly established at the time of
the challenged conduct." Taylor, 685 F.3d at
1113 (quoting Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735
(2011)). We can begin-and often ...