On April 5, 2005, Michigan inmates, represented by attorneys and students with the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, alleging that changes to the Michigan parole law and policies made in 1992 ("life means life") precluded any meaningful review of their life sentences, thereby effectively converting them into mandatory life sentences in violation of the Ex Post Facto and the Due Process Clauses of the United States Constitution. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that as a result of the changed parole policies: (1) their parole had been reviewed every other year, but now only every five years; (2) they were no longer entitled to an in-person hearing; (3) written reasons for denial are no longer required, but were before; (4) "a statement of no interest or a pass-over" was no longer considered a formal Parole Board decision subject to judicial review; and (5) the Parole Board changed from an independent entity to one under the direct authority of Michigan's executive department. Plaintiffs named as defendants the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Michigan Parole Board. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification.
In an unpublished opinion, The Court (Judge Nancy G. Edmunds) refused to waive the filing fee based on plaintiffs' impoverished financial status. Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40135 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 19, 2005).
Defendants moved to dismiss the case on various grounds, including failure to state a claim, statute of limitations bar and qualified immunity. The Court (Judge Edmunds) granted the defendants' motion in part and dismissed plaintiffs' Due Process claim, holding that there was no liberty interest in parole. The Court denied the motion was as to plaintiffs' ex post facto claim, allowing litigation to continue on that issue. Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, 2005 WL 2010181, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40869 (E.D.Mich. Aug 18, 2005)
On October 26, 2005, The Court (Judge Edmunds) granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification, defining the class as all parolable life inmates in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections who were convicted before October 1, 1992, and whose parole the "new" parole board has denied, passed over, expressed no interest in pursuing, or otherwise rejected or deferred.
Shortly thereafter, Judge Edmunds disqualified herself, and the action was reassigned to District Judge Marianne O. Battani. Judge Battani later redefined the class as consisting of:
"All parolable lifers in the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections who committed crimes (for which they received a parolable life sentence) before October 1, 1992, and whose parole the "new" parole board has denied, passed over, expressed no interest in pursuing, or otherwise rejected or deferred. Excluded from this definition are so-called "drug lifers" who were convicted of distribution or possession of controlled substances, regardless of whether the crime was originally one subject to parolable life or one converted to parolable life at a later time."
The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the ex post facto claim. The Court (Judge Battani) entered summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, finding that the changes to Michigan's parole policies since October 1, 1992, as applied to non-drug parolable lifers who committed crimes before that date, were unconstitutional. Foster-Bey v. Rubitschun, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95748 ( E.D. Mich. Oct. 23, 2007).
On February 7, 2008, the Court (Judge Battani) issued a first remedial injunctive order, directing state officials to begin parole proceedings for the estimated 1000 class members, using the review process that was in place in 1992, prior to the subject changes. The injunction set forth detailed instructions for implementing the parole proceedings and for reporting remediation efforts to the Court.
In March 2008, the defendants appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The defendants appealed the District Court's grant of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, entry of the declaratory judgment and permanent injunction and award of plaintiffs' costs and attorney fees. The plaintiffs cross-appealed the dismissal of their due process claim.
On February 28, 2010, in a published opinion, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and remanded the case to the District Court with instructions to grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit vacated the permanent injunction and reversed the award of plaintiffs' costs and attorney fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the District Court's dismissal of plaintiffs' due process claim.
On March 02, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a petition for en banc rehearing. The Sixth Circuit denied the petition on April 04, 2010. On July 23, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 07, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the certiorari petition.
(Updated 03/19/2012)Xin Chen - 03/20/2012