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Rippy Bey v. Hooks

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

June 1, 2018

CHARLES A. RIPPY BEY, Petitioner,
v.
ERIK A HOOKS, Secretary, N.C. Department of Public Safety, Respondent.[1]

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, a state inmate, petitions this court for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter is before the court on respondent's motion to stay, or in the alternative, to dismiss (DE 40). The motion has been fully briefed. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants respondent's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 27, 1993, petitioner pleaded guilty to first degree sex offense in the Catawba County Superior Court of North Carolina, and was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. (J. & Commitment Order (DE 16-3)). Petitioner was seventeen at the time of his conviction and sentence. (See id.) Petitioner became eligible for parole on January 30, 2013, and he received annual parole reviews beginning on December 31, 2012 (Jones Aff. (DE 16-2) ¶¶ 7-8). As of the date petitioner filed the petition, the North Carolina Parole Commission (“Parole Commission”) had denied petitioner parole on three occasions: January 4, 2013, January 13, 2014, and January 7, 2015. (Id. ¶ 8). The January 4, 2013, letter from the Parole Commission stated that parole was denied but did not provide an explanation. (Jan. 4. 2013, Letter Denying Parole (DE 16-4) at 2). The January 13, 2014 and January 7, 2015, letters provided the following justification for denying parole:

Your release at this time would unduly depreciate the seriousness of the crime or promote disrespect for the law. Your continued correctional programming in the institution will substantially enhance your capacity to lead a law-abiding life if released at a later date. There is a substantial risk that you would engage in further criminal conduct.

(Jan. 13, 2014, Letter Denying Parole; Jan. 7, 2015, Letter Denying Parole (DE 16-4) at 3-4).

         On May 11, 2015, petitioner filed the instant “Petition for Writ of Mandamus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 Habeas Corpus.” (DE 1). The petition is exceedingly difficult to follow, but petitioner appears to allege that his parole proceedings did not comply with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Petitioner's primary argument in support of this claim is that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 3551 et seq. & 28 U.S.C. §§ 991-998, [2] abolished parole for state prisoners, and thus he should have been unconditionally released on the date he became eligible for parole. Additionally, petitioner arguably challenges the Parole Commission's procedures under the Eighth Amendment, which requires that juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment receive “some realistic opportunity to obtain release before the end of [the life] term.” Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 82 (2010); see also Hayden v. Keller, 134 F.Supp.3d 1000, 1009-10 (E.D. N.C. 2015) (holding North Carolina's parole system does not provide juvenile offenders sentenced to life terms with a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation).

         On September 14, 2015, the court conducted an initial review of the petition and allowed the matter to proceed. In October 2015, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which were both fully briefed.

         On June 8, 2016, the court stayed this proceeding pending resolution of two appeals then pending in the United States Court of Appeals: In re: Terrence Wright, No. 15-281 (4th Cir. Sept. 2, 2015) (considering the issue of whether a state prisoner challenging his sentence computation should brings a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, 28 U.S.C. § 2241, or both) and Hayden v. Butler, No. 15-7676 (4th Cir. Oct. 22, 2015) (considering the constitutionality of North Carolina's parole procedures for juvenile offenders sentenced to life imprisonment with parole). In that same order, the court denied the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment without prejudice.

         The Fourth Circuit decided the Wright appeal on June 21, 2016, and the Hayden appeal on August 1, 2016. See In re Wright, 826 F.3d 774 (4th Cir. 2016); Hayden v. Butler, 667 Fed.Appx. 416 (2016) (per curiam). Thereafter, respondent filed a motion to continue the stay, pending resolution of the Hayden litigation in the district court. The court granted respondent's motion on April 28, 2017, and directed respondent to file a notice within 30 days of the district court's resolution of Hayden. On November 17, 2017, respondent filed the requested notice. The district court ruled in Hayden that North Carolina's parole system did not provide juvenile offenders sentenced to life terms a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Hayden v. Keller, No. 5:10-CT-3123-BO (E.D. N.C. Nov. 2, 2017). The district court thus granted the plaintiff's request for injunctive relief and adopted the North Carolina Department of Public Safety's (“NCDPS”) proposed remedial plan. See Hayden v. Keller, No. 5:10-CT-3123-BO (E.D. N.C. Nov. 2, 2017). Upon receiving notice of the Hayden ruling, this court lifted the stay and directed the parties to file further dispositive motions on or before February 5, 2018.

         On February 2, 2018, respondent filed the instant motion to stay, or in the alternative, motion to dismiss without prejudice. Respondent did not attach any exhibits or other supporting documents to the motion, but relied on certain state court records submitted with respondent's earlier motion for summary judgment.[3] Petitioner filed a response to the motion, attaching state court records and other miscellaneous documents as support.

         DISCUSSION

         Respondent first argues the court should stay these proceedings (again) pending resolution of a second appeal in the Hayden matter. The Fourth Circuit, however, recently granted the Hayden defendants' motion to dismiss the second appeal. Hayden v. Fowler, No. 17-7582 (4th Cir. Mar. 22, 2018).[4] The dismissal of the second Hayden appeal thus moots the ...


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