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Fields v. Flournoy

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

August 9, 2017

ANTHONY FIELDS, Petitioner,
v.
J.V. FLOURNOY, Respondent.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Anthony Fields (“Fields”), who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Response. (Doc. 7.) For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS as moot Fields' Petition, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case, and DENY Fields in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         Fields was convicted in the Northern District of Texas of: possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Fields was sentenced to 300 months' imprisonment. (Doc. 7-1, p. 2.) He has a projected release date of August 20, 2026, via good conduct time release. (Id. at p. 3.)

         On June 14, 2015, officials at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth, Texas, charged Fields with aiding in the assault of another inmate, in contravention of Bureau of Prisons' (“BOP”) disciplinary rules. (Doc. 1, p. 1; Doc. 7-2, p. 3.) Officials conducted a disciplinary hearing against Fields on this charged offense on July 29, 2015. (Id.) As a result of this hearing, Fields was sanctioned with disciplinary segregation for thirty (30) days, loss of commissary, phone, visitation, and e-mail privileges, and the disallowance of forty-one (41) days' good conduct time credit. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-2.) Fields filed this Petition on July 15, 2016, contesting the loss of his good conduct time credit. (Id. at p. 5.)

         Respondent asserts that Fields' Petition is now moot. (Doc. 7.) Specifically, Respondent states Fields received a rehearing on the incident report on August 25, 2016, and, as a result of this rehearing, he was found not to have committed the charged act. The incident report was expunged from Fields' record, and the good conduct time credits that were disallowed after the first hearing were reinstated and credited to his time served. (Id. at p. 4.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether Fields' Petition is Moot

         Article III of the Constitution “extends the jurisdiction of federal courts to only ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.'” Strickland v. Alexander, 772 F.3d 876, 882 (11th Cir. 2014). This “case-or-controversy restriction imposes” what is “generally referred to as ‘justiciability' limitations.” Id. There are “three strands of justiciability doctrine-standing, ripeness, and mootness-that go to the heart of the Article III case or controversy requirement.” Harrell v. The Fla. Bar, 608 F.3d 1241, 1247 (11th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). With regard to the mootness strand, the United States Supreme Court has made clear that “a federal court has no authority ‘to give opinions upon moot questions or abstract propositions, or to declare principles or rules of law which cannot affect the matter in issue in the case before it.'” Church of Scientology of Cal. v. United States, 506 U.S. 9, 12 (1992) (internal citation omitted). Accordingly, “[a]n issue is moot when it no longer presents a live controversy with respect to which the court can give meaningful relief.” Friends of Everglades v. S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist., 570 F.3d 1210, 1216 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Questions of justiciability are not answered “simply by looking to the state of affairs at the time the suit was filed. Rather, the Supreme Court has made clear that the controversy ‘must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.'” Christian Coal. of Fla., Inc. v. United States, 662 F.3d 1182, 1189-90 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Preiser v. Newkirk, 422 U.S. 395, 401 (1975)).

         As noted above, Respondent maintains that Fields had a rehearing on the incident report, and the BOP expunged the incident report from Fields' record and restored all lost and forfeited good conduct time credit arising from the initial incident report. (Doc. 7, p. 4.) As Fields only contests the incident report and resulting disallowance of good conduct time credit in his Petition, there is no longer a “live controversy” over which the Court can give meaningful relief.[1] Friends of Everglades, 570 F.3d at 1216. Accordingly, the Court should DISMISS as moot Fields' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

         II. Leave to Appeal in Forma Pauperis

         The Court should also deny Fields leave to appeal in forma pauperis. Though Fields has, of course, not yet filed a notice of appeal, it would be appropriate to address these issues in the Court's order of dismissal. Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3) (trial court may certify that appeal of party proceeding in forma pauperis is not taken in good faith “before or after the notice of appeal is filed”). An appeal cannot be taken in forma pauperis if the trial court certifies that the appeal is not taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Fed. R. App. P. 24(a)(3). Good faith in this context must be judged by an objective standard. Busch v. Cty. of Volusia, 189 F.R.D. 687, 691 (M.D. Fla. 1999). A party does not proceed in good faith when he seeks to advance a frivolous claim or argument. See Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). A claim or argument is frivolous when it appears the factual allegations are clearly baseless or the legal theories are indisputably meritless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Carroll v. Gross, 984 F.2d 392, 393 (11th Cir. 1993). Stated another way, an in forma pauperis action is frivolous, and thus, not brought in good faith, if it is “without arguable merit either in law or fact.” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002); see also Brown v. United States, Nos. 407CV085, 403CR001, 2009 WL 307872, at *1-2 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 9, 2009).

         Given the above analysis of Fields' Petition and Respondent's Response, there are no non-frivolous issues to raise on appeal, and an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Thus, ...


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