Roberts v. Corrothers, No. 86-1584

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore WRIGHT and FARRIS; FARRIS
Citation812 F.2d 1173
Docket NumberNo. 86-1584
Decision Date16 March 1987
PartiesFrankie Lee ROBERTS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Helen G. CORROTHERS, Regional Commissioner, United States Parole Commission; Rob Roberts, Warden, Federal Correctional Institution, Pleasanton, California, Respondents-Appellees.

Page 1173

812 F.2d 1173
Frankie Lee ROBERTS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Helen G. CORROTHERS, Regional Commissioner, United States
Parole Commission; Rob Roberts, Warden, Federal
Correctional Institution, Pleasanton,
California, Respondents-Appellees.
No. 86-1584.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued Aug. 12, 1986.
Submitted Oct. 23, 1986.
Decided March 16, 1987.

Page 1175

William J. Genego, Noel Ragsdale, Los Angeles, Cal., for petitioner-appellant.

Stephen A. Shefler, Asst. U.S. Atty., San Francisco, Cal., for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before WRIGHT and FARRIS, Circuit Judges, and LETTS, * District Judge.

FARRIS, Circuit Judge:

Frankie Lee Roberts and three codefendants were convicted in federal court of conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin. She was sentenced to eight years in prison and began serving her sentence in February 1983. In this habeas corpus action, Roberts alleges that the United States Parole Commission's evaluation of the severity of her offense violated the Commission's guidelines and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution. The district court dismissed two of Roberts' claims and denied the third after a show cause hearing. Roberts appeals from the district court's denial of her petition. We have no jurisdiction to review substantive decisions of the Parole Commission and limited jurisdiction to review the Commission's decision-making processes. Our jurisdiction to hear challenges to the Commission's decision-making processes includes only constitutional claims and claims that the Commission has acted outside its statutory discretion. Roberts' claims actually challenge unreviewable discretionary decisions of the Commission. Therefore we lack jurisdiction and affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In July 1983, the Parole Commission held an initial hearing to evaluate Roberts' case for parole. As prescribed by statute, the Commission evaluated the severity of Roberts' offense and the risk of releasing her. As prescribed by its regulations, the Commission made these evaluations in the form of an "offense severity" score and a "salient factor" score. Roberts received an offense severity score of eight and a salient factor score of nine, resulting in a parole release range of 100+ months. Because the minimum of 100 months was longer than her eight-year sentence, Roberts was denied parole and ordered to serve the full sentence. She appealed this decision. It was affirmed at both levels of administrative appeal.

Roberts filed a habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2241 challenging the Commission's offense severity score. She alleged that the Commission (1) violated its regulations and her right to due process by relying on an erroneous statement of the quantity of drugs involved in determining the severity of her offense; (2) violated her rights to due process and equal protection by

Page 1176

rating her offense more severely than the allegedly identical offenses of her co-defendants; and (3) violated her right to due process by erroneously regarding Roberts as having a managerial or proprietary ("non-peripheral") role in the offense. The district court dismissed the first two claims without requiring the government to respond, but ordered the government to show cause why Roberts' petition should not be granted on her third claim. After a hearing, the district court denied Roberts' third claim, dismissing the petition. Roberts appealed.

II. JURISDICTION: WALLACE v. CHRISTENSEN

Even though neither of the parties has raised the issue, we must determine at the outset whether we have jurisdiction. In re Ryther, 799 F.2d 1412, 1414 (9th Cir.1986). Our review of decisions by the Parole Commission is limited, and we have recently charted those limits in Wallace v. Christensen, 802 F.2d 1539 (9th Cir.1986) (en banc). We held there that Congress committed all "substantive decisions to grant or deny parole" to the discretion of the Parole Commission and that such decisions are therefore not reviewable. Id. at 1545. Wallace thus explicitly rejects our earlier cases that have reviewed Parole Commission decisions for abuse of discretion. Id. at 1542. "By definition, a bare allegation that the Commission has abused its discretion acknowledges that the Commission has exercised a judgment, if improperly, within its discretion. Congress has specifically withdrawn such cases from our jurisdiction." Id. at 1551 (emphasis in original).

Wallace also determined the extent to which "removal of our jurisdiction to review the Commission's decisions to grant or deny parole also precludes our review of the Commission's decision-making processes." Id. at 1546 (emphasis in original). Wallace declined to take an "all or nothing" position, holding instead that Congress intended judicial review of some aspects of Parole Commission decision-making but not others. Analysis of the Parole Act and its legislative history led us to conclude in Wallace that "Congress intended to carve out an area of decision-making which, like the decision to grant or deny parole, is committed to agency discretion and hence unreviewable even for abuse of discretion." Id. at 1551. Within this unreviewable area are those judgments integral to individual parole decisions, judgments "as to: the 'institutional behavior of each prospective parolee,' the 'nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the prisoner,' the 'concepts of general and special deterrence, retribution and punishment,' [and] the 'relevance of material before the Commission'...." Id. at 1549-50 (quoting Joint House-Senate Conference Report No. 94-838, 94th Cong.2d Sess. 19, reprinted in 1976 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 351).

Some aspects of Parole Commission decision-making are reviewable, however. Because "Congress has delineated boundaries beyond which the Commission may not act," courts "may consider whether the Commission has acted outside these statutory limits." Wallace, 802 F.2d at 1551. To determine jurisdiction, then, a court must "inquire whether the Commission has in fact made a 'judgment' within its discretion. Specifically, the court's inquiry is addressed to whether the Commission's decision involves the exercise of judgment among a range of possible choices or options, or involves a plain violation of a matter which does not admit of discretion and choice." Id. at 1552. For example, "[a]lthough the relevance of the information considered by the Commission is a matter committed to discretion, a court may review whether the Commission completely failed to consider these factors which by statute it is required to consider in rendering its parole decision." Id. at 1551 (citation omitted). Wallace also holds that "a court has jurisdiction to consider whether the Commission violated the Constitution." Id. at 1552. To determine whether we have jurisdiction, we must determine whether Roberts' challenge of the Parole Commission's decision-making process involves these limited areas.

III. DETERMINING JURISDICTION

Roberts alleges that the Parole Commission violated its regulations and the

Page 1177

Constitution--specifically the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments--in making its judgment as to the "nature and circumstances of [her] offense." In considering Roberts' claims, we must take care that the limited exceptions in Wallace do not swallow the rule. Petitioners unhappy with discretionary parole decisions cannot circumvent the Parole Act and obtain judicial review simply by labeling their claims as constitutional or "extra-discretionary." Of course, we must also be true to Wallace's careful preservation of judicial review for legitimate constitutional or "extra-discretionary" claims.

Wallace therefore requires a threshold inquiry to determine jurisdiction. Ordinarily, where a jurisdictional issue is separable from the merits of a case, the court may determine jurisdiction by the standards of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. In such a situation, the district court is:

free to hear evidence regarding jurisdiction and to rule on that issue prior to trial, resolving factual disputes where necessary. In such circumstances, "[n]o presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims."

Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir.1983) (quoting Thornhill Publishing Co. v. General Telephone & Electronics Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir.1979)).

The relatively expansive standards of a 12(b)(1) motion are not appropriate for determining jurisdiction in a case like this, where issues of jurisdiction and substance are intertwined. A court may not resolve genuinely disputed facts where "the question of jurisdiction is dependent on the resolution of factual issues going to the merits." Augustine, 704 F.2d at 1077; accord Sun Valley Gasoline, Inc. v. Ernst Enterprises, 711 F.2d 138, 139 (9th Cir.1983). In such a case, the district court assumes the truth of allegations in a complaint or habeas petition, unless controverted by undisputed facts in the record. (Of course, a court need not "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1031, 102 S.Ct. 567, 70 L.Ed.2d 474 (1981).) Dismissal is then appropriate where "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Franklin v. State of Oregon, 662 F.2d 1337, 1343 (9th Cir.1981). This standard, "often cited in Rule 12(b)(6) motions, ... is...

To continue reading

Request your trial
662 practice notes
  • James v. Group, Case No.: 14-CV-1756-AJB-JMA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 2, 2015
    ...court need not take legal conclusions as true "merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Roberts v. Corrothers , 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting W. Mining Council v. Watt , 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981) ) (internal quotation marks omitted)."Summary j......
  • Plum Creek Timber Co., Inc. v. Trout Unlimited, No. CV02-365-C-EJL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Idaho
    • March 31, 2003
    ...facts where `the question of jurisdiction is dependent on the resolution of factual issues going to the merits.'" Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir.1987) (quoting Augustine, 704 F.2d at 1077). In such a case, "the jurisdictional determination should await a determination o......
  • Gaede v. U.S. Forest Serv., CASE NO. CV F 12-0468 LJO DLB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 9, 2013
    ...St. Clair v. City of Chico, 880 F.2d 199, 201 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 993, 110 S.Ct. 541 (1989); Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987); Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983); Smith v. Rossotte, 250 F.Supp.2d 1266, 1268 (D. Or. 2003) ......
  • Bryan v. Def. Tech. U.S, No. CIV S-10-2241 KJM GGH P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 10, 2011
    ...case, the trial court cannot determine the jurisdictional issue until such facts are appropriately resolved. See Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177-78 (9th Cir.1987); see also Trentacosta v. Frontier Pac. Aircraft Indus., 8l3 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987) (summary judgment standar......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
654 cases
  • James v. Group, Case No.: 14-CV-1756-AJB-JMA.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • December 2, 2015
    ...court need not take legal conclusions as true "merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Roberts v. Corrothers , 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting W. Mining Council v. Watt , 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981) ) (internal quotation marks omitted)."Summary j......
  • Plum Creek Timber Co., Inc. v. Trout Unlimited, No. CV02-365-C-EJL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Idaho
    • March 31, 2003
    ...facts where `the question of jurisdiction is dependent on the resolution of factual issues going to the merits.'" Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir.1987) (quoting Augustine, 704 F.2d at 1077). In such a case, "the jurisdictional determination should await a determination o......
  • Gaede v. U.S. Forest Serv., CASE NO. CV F 12-0468 LJO DLB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 9, 2013
    ...St. Clair v. City of Chico, 880 F.2d 199, 201 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 993, 110 S.Ct. 541 (1989); Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987); Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983); Smith v. Rossotte, 250 F.Supp.2d 1266, 1268 (D. Or. 2003) ......
  • Bryan v. Def. Tech. U.S, No. CIV S-10-2241 KJM GGH P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 10, 2011
    ...case, the trial court cannot determine the jurisdictional issue until such facts are appropriately resolved. See Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177-78 (9th Cir.1987); see also Trentacosta v. Frontier Pac. Aircraft Indus., 8l3 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987) (summary judgment standar......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT