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Teran v. Johns

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

October 17, 2017

TRACY JOHNS, Respondent.



         Petitioner Santiago Teran (“Teran”), who was previously incarcerated at D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, Georgia, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Response, (doc. 7), to which Teran filed a Reply, (doc. 8). For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Teran's Petition without prejudice, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Teran in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         Teran is serving a 360-month term of incarceration for conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1). (Doc. 7-1, pp. 2, 13-17.) He has a projected release date of January 8, 2018, via good conduct time release, to be followed by 120 months of supervised release. (Id. at pp. 6-11.) On April 9, 1998, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service, issued a detainer against Teran. (Id. at p. 23.) As Respondent explains, “Immigration Detainers are placed with correctional facilities for notification purposes; the ICE detainer for Petitioner, . . . indicates that Petitioner should be held for possible deportation by the Department of Homeland Security after the 360-month sentence imposed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California has been served.” (Doc. 7, p. 3 (citing Doc. 7-1, pp. 2 12-17, 24).)


         In his Petition, Teran asks the Court to “[c]ompel ICE/DHS and District Director of ICE, Phoenix, AZ to clear detainer placed on 11/04/1997.” (Doc. 1, p. 6.) He contends that the detainer is a violation of his due process rights and that he needs the detainer cancelled so that he can be placed in a halfway house. (Id. at pp. 6-7.)

         Respondent advances numerous grounds to dismiss Teran's Petition. (Doc. 7.) Respondent contends Teran failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his Petition. (Id. at pp. 5-6.) Moreover, Respondent contends that Teran's claims challenge the conditions of his confinement, and therefore, cannot be brought under Section 2241. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) Respondent also asserts that the immigration detainer against Teran is not “custody” for Section 2241 purposes. (Id. at pp. 6-7.)

         I. Whether Teran Exhausted his Administrative Remedies

         A. Legal Requirements for Exhaustion

         The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a Section 2241 petitioner's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is not a jurisdictional defect. Santiago-Lugo v. Warden, 785 F.3d 467, 474 (11th Cir. 2015); see also Fleming v. Warden of FCI Tallahassee, 631 F. App'x 840, 842 (11th Cir. 2015) (“[Section] 2241's exhaustion requirement was judicially imposed, not congressionally mandated, and . . . nothing in the statute itself support[s] the conclusion that the requirement [is] jurisdictional.”). Nevertheless, the Eleventh Circuit has noted “that the exhaustion requirement is still a requirement and that courts cannot ‘disregard a failure to exhaust . . . if the respondent properly asserts the defense.'” Id. (citing Santiago-Lugo, 785 F.3d at 475). Failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, and inmates are not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in their complaint. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Additionally, the United States Supreme Court recently “held that the PLRA's [“Prison Litigation Reform Act's”] text suggests no limits on an inmate's obligation to exhaust-irrespective of any ‘special circumstances.' And that mandatory language means a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take such circumstances into account.” Ross v. Blake, ___U.S.___, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (June 6, 2016).

         The requirement that the exhaustion of remedies occur “first in an agency setting allows ‘the agency [to] develop the necessary factual background upon which decisions should be based' and giv[es] ‘the agency a chance to discover and correct its own errors.'” Green v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 212 F. App'x 869, 871 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Alexander v. Hawk, 159 F.3d 1321, 1327 (11th Cir. 1998) (first alteration in original)). Furthermore, requiring exhaustion in the prison setting “eliminate[s] unwarranted federal-court interference with the administration of prisons” and allows “corrections officials time and opportunity to address complaints internally before allowing the initiation of a federal case.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006).[1]

         The Supreme Court has noted exhaustion must be “proper.” Id. at 92. “Proper exhaustion demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and other critical procedural rules because no adjudicative system can function effectively without imposing some orderly structure on the course of its proceedings.” Id. at 90-91. In other words, an institution's requirements define what is considered exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 218. It is not the role of the court to consider the adequacy or futility of the administrative remedies afforded to the inmate. Higginbottom v. Carter, 223 F.3d 1259, 1261 (11th Cir. 2000). The court's focus should be on what remedies are available and whether the inmate pursued these remedies prior to filing suit. Id.

         Thus, under the law, prisoners must do more than simply initiate grievances; they must also appeal any denial of relief through all levels of review that comprise the agency's administrative grievance process. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1378 (11th Cir. 2008) (“To exhaust administrative remedies in accordance with the PLRA, prisoners must ‘properly take each step within the administrative process.'”) (quoting Johnson v. Meadows, 418 F.3d 1152, 1157 (11th Cir. 2005)); Sewell v. Ramsey, No. CV406-159, 2007 WL 201269 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 27, 2007) (finding that a plaintiff who is still awaiting a response from the warden regarding his grievance is still in the process of exhausting his administrative remedies).

         B. Standard of Review for Exhaustion

         “Even though a failure-to-exhaust defense is non-jurisdictional, it is like” a jurisdictional defense because such a determination “ordinarily does not deal with the merits” of a particular cause of action. Bryant, 530 F.3d at 1374 (internal punctuation and citation omitted). Further, a judge “may resolve factual questions” in instances where exhaustion of administrative remedies is a defense before the court. Id. In these instances, “it is proper for a judge to consider facts outside of the pleadings and to resolve ...

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