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Waters v. Rios

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

August 23, 2017

John Joseph Waters, Jr., Petitioner,
v.
Warden M. Rios; Warden William True, III; Thomas R. Kane, Acting Director; Kathleen M. Kenney, Assistant Director/General Counsel; and U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, Defendants.

          John Joseph Waters, Jr., Federal Prison Camp Duluth, pro se Plaintiff.

          Ana H. Voss, Ann M. Bildtsen, and David W. Fuller, United States Attorney's Office, for Defendants.

          ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Objections [Doc. No. 4] to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Schultz dated May 17, 2017 (“R&R”) [Doc. No. 3], which recommended dismissing his Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Habeas Pet.”) [Doc. No. 1]. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's Objections are overruled, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation, and dismisses the Habeas Petition without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff John Joseph Waters, Jr. (“Waters”) is an inmate at the federal prison camp in Duluth, Minnesota. (Habeas Pet. at 1[1].) Waters was convicted on multiple counts of wire fraud, income tax evasion, and filing false income tax returns, and sentenced to 108 months of incarceration by the Honorable Ann D. Montgomery in the District of Minnesota. See United States v. Waters, 799 F.3d 964 (8th Cir. 2015).

         In July of 2016, Waters submitted a request to Defendant Warden William True (“Warden True”) asking the Warden to request the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to move the court that sentenced Waters for his compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). (See Request for Compassionate Release Mot. at 2 [Doc. No. 1-3].) Specifically, Waters requested a “transfer to home confinement” so that he could care for his elderly and medically infirmed mother after the recent death of his father, who had been his mother's caretaker. (Id. at 2-4.) Waters claimed that his mother did not wish to live in a nursing home, which would also be cost prohibitive, and that other members of his family-including his seven siblings-were unable to assume a caretaking role “due to various family, career, geographic, health, and financial reasons[.]” (Id. at 4.)

         Warden True denied Waters' request, stating that the BOP's internal policies regarding the extraordinary circumstances that warrant motions for compassionate release did not include providing care to a parent or family member. (See Id. at 15.) Warden True also noted that there were numerous family members besides Waters who could care for his mother. (Id. at 15.) Waters appealed this decision to multiple BOP divisions, but those appeals were denied. (Id. at 33-34, 36, 41-42, 46.)

         Waters now seeks a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, based on his claim that the BOP failed to “properly consider” his request for compassionate release. (Habeas Pet. at 2.) Specifically, Waters argues that the BOP “misapplied and misinterpreted” its own policies regarding non-medical requests for compassionate release, as well as the statutory criteria controlling such requests. (Id. at 3-4, 7-8.)

         The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing the Habeas Petition without prejudice. (R&R at 5.) First, he noted that the Court likely lacked jurisdiction to consider Waters' § 2241 Petition. (Id. at 2-3.) Second, even assuming the Court had jurisdiction, he concluded that the BOP's denial of Waters' compassionate release request was not subject to judicial review. (Id. at 3-4.) Third, considering the merits of Waters' claims, he found that the BOP regulations and other statutory provisions cited by Waters did not support his claim that the BOP abused its discretion. (Id. at 4.)

         Waters presents three objections to the Report and Recommendation. (See Pl.'s Objs. at 1.) First, Waters asserts that the BOP failed to comport with the “spirit and intent” of the statutes governing compassionate release by refusing to move for release in situations like his (i.e., where the prisoner's own medical condition is not at issue, but instead the well-being and care of one related to the prisoner is the basis for the request). (See Id. at 2-3.) Citing a 2013 report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General that is critical of the BOP's practices related to compassionate release, Waters argues that “[t]he BOP's categorical refusal to give serious consideration to any and all [compassionate release] requests . . . made based upon non-medical circumstances” is a “serious abuse of [the BOP's] discretion.” (See Id. at 3-7.) Second, Waters contends that this Court has the authority to consider his claims related to compassionate release for non-medical reasons-regardless of whether the BOP moved for his compassionate release-because to find otherwise would deny him the ability to challenge the BOP's allegedly improper practices. (See Id. at 7-8.) Third, Waters argues that a § 2241 habeas petition is the proper vehicle to pursue his claims because he is being held “in violation of the laws of the United States” and is attempting to challenge the legality of his detention.[2] (See Id. at 9-10.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Court must conduct a de novo review of any portion of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b). The Court liberally construes the filings and objections of pro se litigants. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004); Lindsey v. City of Minneapolis, No. 15-cv-1202 (WMW/BRT), 2016 WL 3360485, at *2 (D. Minn. June 16, 2016).

         Waters contends that his Habeas Petition is the proper means to assert his claims related to the BOP's refusal to move for his compassionate release. (See Pl.'s Objs. at 9- 10.) Although this issue is not entirely settled in the case law, the weight of ...


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