Garcia v. Neagle, No. 80-6585

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PHILLIPS, MURNAGHAN and ERVIN; JAMES DICKSON PHILLIPS
Citation660 F.2d 983
PartiesAngeles Ramonita GARCIA, Appellee, v. Kenneth R. NEAGLE, Warden, F. C. I. Alderson, and United States Parole Commission, Appellants.
Docket NumberNo. 80-6585
Decision Date11 January 1982

Page 983

660 F.2d 983
Angeles Ramonita GARCIA, Appellee,
v.
Kenneth R. NEAGLE, Warden, F. C. I. Alderson, and United
States Parole Commission, Appellants.
No. 80-6585.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.
Argued July 17, 1981.
Decided Sept. 21, 1981.
Certiorari Denied Jan. 11, 1982.
See 102 S.Ct. 1023.

Page 985

Michael A. Stover, U. S. Parole Commission, Washington, D. C. (Robert B. King, U. S. Atty., J. Timothy DiPiero, Asst. U. S. Atty., Charleston, W. Va., on brief), for appellants.

Jeffrey S. Saltz, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee.

Before PHILLIPS, MURNAGHAN and ERVIN, Circuit Judges.

JAMES DICKSON PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge:

The United States Parole Commission (Commission) appeals from an order of the district court requiring the Commission to give Angeles Ramonita Garcia a new parole hearing because the parole guidelines used by the Commission are invalid and their application violative of her right to due process. The Commission also appeals from the court's further order releasing Mrs. Garcia from custody, following the Commission's refusal to conduct a new hearing. We reverse. We hold that the district court exceeded its powers under the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act (the Parole Act), 18 U.S.C. § 4201 et seq., in reviewing the Commission's determination for abuse of discretion. We further hold that the Commission did not as the district court concluded violate its statutory mandate in promulgating the guidelines so as to emphasize the offense rather than the sentence imposed in making parole determinations nor in categorizing large-scale fraud offenses in the same category with violent crimes.

I

In 1977, Mrs. Garcia was a 64-year-old resident of Puerto Rico who operated a beautician's training school in San Juan. She was charged in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico with falsifying the attendance records of certain of her students in order to receive from the Veterans' Administration tuition payments to which her school was not entitled. The amount of money allegedly expropriated exceeded $500,000. 1

As the result of a plea agreement, Mrs. Garcia pleaded guilty to three counts of the indictment against her: mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, making false statements to the United States Government, id. §§ 1001, 1002, and conspiracy to defraud the United States Government, id. § 371. The district judge in Puerto Rico accepted her guilty plea and subsequently sentenced her to terms of five years on each count, the maximum penalty for the offenses charged, and a fine of $21,000, but ordered that the sentences be served concurrently.

After sentencing, Mrs. Garcia was incarcerated at F.C.I. Alderson, West Virginia. In November 1978, the Commission conducted her initial parole hearing and thereafter granted her a presumptive parole date of March 31, 1981, at which time she would have served two-thirds of her sentence. The Commission arrived at this date by applying the guidelines promulgated pursuant

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to the Parole Act. 28 C.F.R. § 2.20. These guidelines match offense severity with a quantified prediction of parole success ("salient factor score"). Mrs. Garcia's offenses were rated "Greatest I," 2 the sixth highest of seven levels, but her salient factor score was 11, the most favorable possible. The guideline range for this combination was 40 to 52 months. Not finding any justification for making a parole decision outside the guideline, the Commission set a presumptive parole date 40 months into her sentence, March 3, 1981. A statutory interim hearing was set for May 1980.

In May 1979, Mrs. Garcia filed a petition, soon followed by a first supplement, for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. In this petition she alleged that her plea of guilty had been involuntarily entered, that her trial counsel had been ineffective, and that she had never been apprised of her right to appeal. Later she filed a second supplement alleging that the sentencing court had violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure by failing to inform her of the policies of the Commission, and that the decision of the Commission to deny her parole until 40 months had been served was illegal. She contended, alleging 28 U.S.C. § 2241 as an additional basis for jurisdiction, that the parole guidelines usurp both judicial and legislative functions by nullifying the discretion of the sentencing court in imposing individual sentences and by denying prisoners the individualized consideration required in the Parole Act.

In January 1980, the habeas court in West Virginia transferred the original petition and first supplement to the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and ordered the Commission to file in the West Virginia court a responsive pleading to all the issues raised in the second supplemental petition, including the alleged violation of Rule 11 by the sentencing court. The court also ordered Mrs. Garcia to file in the West Virginia court an amended pleading in the form of a petition for declaratory relief naming the Commission as defendant.

The district court then held that the Commission had both violated the Parole Act and abused its discretion in denying Mrs. Garcia parole until two-thirds of her sentence had been served. 3 Specifically, the

Page 987

court found that the categorization of her offense in the "Greatest I" category solely because of the monetary amount of the fraud and the use of an amount not judicially determined violated the language and spirit of the statute, denying her the individualized consideration required by 18 U.S.C. § 4206(a). Such action, in the court's view, was "a complete abrogation by the Commission of its mandate from Congress (shocking to) the conscience of the court." The court declined to address the issue whether the Commission guidelines usurp the legislative and judicial powers. Although the court did apparently find that the sentencing court had violated due process by failing to inform Mrs. Garcia of the Commission's parole policies prior to accepting her guilty plea, the court stayed resolution of the Rule 11 issue pending its consideration by the sentencing court.

On appeal, the Commission argues that there is no statutory or constitutional prohibition against rating a nonviolent fraud offense involving a large sum in the same guideline category with offenses involving possible injury to human life. Further, the Commission argues that the district court exceeded the proper scope of judicial review available under the Parole Act and improperly substituted its judgment for that of the Commission.

In support of the district court's action, Mrs. Garcia argues that the Commission violated the statutory mandate in failing to consider, as a starting point, the sentence imposed by the sentencing court. Further, she asserts that the action of the Commission in denying her parole was "arbitrary and irrational ... and cannot survive judicial review, under any standard of scrutiny applicable."

II

We address as dispositive two distinct questions: whether the Commission's action in categorizing Mrs. Garcia's offense in the "Greatest I" category on the basis of an unverified monetary amount, thus requiring her to serve the longest sentence permitted by law when her status as a model prisoner was undisputed, is subject to judicial review for abuse of discretion; and second, whether the parole guidelines fail to provide for individualized parole determinations and thus violate the Parole Act, either because they allow classification of offense severity for property offenses solely on the basis of monetary amount or because they fail to direct the Commission to begin its evaluation with reference to the prisoner's sentence.

A.

Our first inquiry is to determine the extent to which these actions of the Commission in promulgating and in applying the guidelines are subject to judicial review. The presumption is, of course, that judicial review is available to an individual aggrieved by final agency action, so long as no statute precludes review or the action is not one "committed by law to agency discretion." Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 140, 87 S.Ct. 1507, 1510, 18 L.Ed.2d 681 (1967) (citing 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)); see Barlow v. Collins, 397 U.S. 159, 166-67, 90 S.Ct. 832, 837-38, 25 L.Ed.2d 192 (1970); Association of Data Processing Service Organizations, Inc. v. Camp, 397 U.S. 150, 156-57, 90 S.Ct. 827, 831, 25 L.Ed.2d 184 (1970). Where review is precluded by statute or where Congress has "committed the challenged action entirely to administrative discretion, judicial review may not be available." Barlow v. Collins, 397 U.S. at 165, 87 S.Ct. at 836; Morris v. Gressette, 432 U.S. 491, 500-01, 97 S.Ct. 2411, 2418, 53 L.Ed.2d 506 (1977).

Whether judicial review may be available in any particular instance requires more than a mechanical application of this general rule. Although courts must respect congressional intent that certain aspects of agency decisionmaking be left wholly to administrative discretion, see Ferry v. Udall, 336 F.2d 706 (9th Cir. 1964), the exception to judicial review is a narrow one. Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410, 91 S.Ct. 814, 820, 28 L.Ed.2d 136 (1971). Inquiry properly runs to the question for which review is sought and to congressional intent with regard to judicial review as it relates to that

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question. Ness Investment Corp. v. United States Department of Agriculture, 512 F.2d 706, 714 (9th Cir. 1975); cf. Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 366-74, 94 S.Ct. 1160, 1165-69, 39 L.Ed.2d 389 (1974) (statute declaring that the decisions of the Administrator of the Veterans' Administration were not reviewable by any other official or any court not intended by Congress to preclude judicial consideration of constitutional...

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88 practice notes
  • Dufur v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, Civil Action No. 17–677 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 24, 2018
    ...parole—a dubious proposition given the expansive discretion committed to the Commission in § 4206(a) and (c), see Garcia v. Neagle , 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir. 1981) —Dufur has not alleged that any such denial has yet occurred. Dufur's claim that the Commission has violated § 4206(d) fares......
  • Guadamuz v. Bowen, No. 86-2857
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 18, 1988
    ...Inv. Corp. v. United States Dep't of Agric., 512 F.2d 706, 713-14 (9th Cir.1975); see also Thomason, 692 F.2d at 336, Garcia v. Neagle, 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir.1981) (citing Ness ), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1153, 102 S.Ct. 1023, 71 L.Ed.2d 309 (1982); Scanwell Laboratories, Inc. v. Shaffer......
  • American Canoe Ass'n, Inc. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 98-979-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 18, 1998
    ...courts have assumed the power to review allegations that an agency ... failed to follow its own regulations."); Garcia v. Neagle, 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir.1981) ("Where the controlling statute indicates that particular agency action is committed to agency discretion, a court may......
  • Kravitz v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, Case No.: GJH-18-1041
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • August 22, 2018
    ...there is a claim that the agency has violated constitutional, statutory, regulatory or other restrictions." Garcia v. Neagle , 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir. 1981). This exception is normally reserved to allow courts to consider the legality of a category of agency action, not the legalit......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
88 cases
  • Dufur v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, Civil Action No. 17–677 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • May 24, 2018
    ...parole—a dubious proposition given the expansive discretion committed to the Commission in § 4206(a) and (c), see Garcia v. Neagle , 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir. 1981) —Dufur has not alleged that any such denial has yet occurred. Dufur's claim that the Commission has violated § 4206(d) fares......
  • Guadamuz v. Bowen, No. 86-2857
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 18, 1988
    ...Inv. Corp. v. United States Dep't of Agric., 512 F.2d 706, 713-14 (9th Cir.1975); see also Thomason, 692 F.2d at 336, Garcia v. Neagle, 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir.1981) (citing Ness ), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1153, 102 S.Ct. 1023, 71 L.Ed.2d 309 (1982); Scanwell Laboratories, Inc. v. Shaffer......
  • American Canoe Ass'n, Inc. v. U.S. E.P.A., No. 98-979-A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • December 18, 1998
    ...courts have assumed the power to review allegations that an agency ... failed to follow its own regulations."); Garcia v. Neagle, 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir.1981) ("Where the controlling statute indicates that particular agency action is committed to agency discretion, a court may......
  • Kravitz v. U.S. Dep't of Commerce, Case No.: GJH-18-1041
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • August 22, 2018
    ...there is a claim that the agency has violated constitutional, statutory, regulatory or other restrictions." Garcia v. Neagle , 660 F.2d 983, 988 (4th Cir. 1981). This exception is normally reserved to allow courts to consider the legality of a category of agency action, not the legalit......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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