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Cunningham v. United States Parole Commission

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

May 11, 2017

Eugene Jerome Cunningham, Petitioner,
v.
United States Parole Commission and The Warden, FCI Bennettsville, Respondents.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R. & R.") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No, 30) recommending that Respondents' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 14) be granted. For the reasons set forth below, this Court adopts the R. & R. as the Order of the Court with the additional reasons outlined below. Respondents' motion for summary judgment is granted.

         I. Background

         Eugene Jerome Cunningham ("Petitioner"), proceeding pro se, is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") in Bennettsville, South Carolina, serving an aggregate sentence of 45 years to life plus 36 years comprised of both District of Columbia and federal sentences. (Dkt. No. 14-2.) The United States Parole Commission (the "Commission") conducted a parole hearing for Petitioner on February 1, 2016. Since the Commission deemed Petitioner to have completed his federal time, it considered his case under the D.C. parole guidelines. The Commission calculated Petitioner's "grid score" to be points, which under D.C. parole guidelines indicates that parole should be denied. The Commission therefore denied parole on February 1, 2016, and informed Petitioner of the denial by notice of action dated March 17, 2016. (Dkt. No, 14-4.) Petitioner attempted to appeal the denial, and the Commission construed his appeal as a request to reopen his case because decisions of the Commission are not administratively appealable. His request was denied on August 29, 2016.

         On August 15, 2016, Petitioner filed this federal habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, raising the following grounds for relief:

Ground One; The Commission abused its discretion by denying Petitioner parole because he did not complete a "sexually dangerous person civil commitment program" and made such a condition a prerequisite at future parole hearings;
Ground Two: The Commission's use of the 1987 "point score" guidelines of the D.C. Board of Parole, rather than the 1972 regulation in effect when he committed his crime, violates the ex post facto clause of the U.S. Constitution;
Ground Three: Neither the 1987 guidelines nor the 1972 regulation permit departure from the guidelines, and that he should have been scheduled for a rehearing in 12 months; and
Ground Four: The Commission abused its discretion by relying on the offenses' underlying sentences that he claims he has served in full.

         Respondents moved for summary judgment on the entire habeas petition. (Dkt. No. 14.) The Magistrate has recommended that this Court grant the motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 30.)

         II. Legal Standard

         a. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         When a proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a district court is required to consider all arguments directed to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before the magistrate." United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[t]he district court's decision whether to consider additional evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal ...


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