United States District Court, Southern District of New York
August 28, 2003
GAVIN LAWRENCE, PETITIONER, AGAINST JANET RENO, ET AL., RESPONDENTS
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lewis Kaplan, District Judge
Petitioner, a Jamaican national, has been under a deportation order since 1997 and has been in custody through all or most of that time. In April 1998, the Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the order, and petitioner sought review in the Second Circuit.
On September 14, 1998, the Court of Appeals granted the government's request to stay the petition pending a decision in Nguyen v. INS, No. 97-4257. Nguyen was dismissed as moot on December 4, 1998. But the petition for review was left in administrative limbo for more than two years and first was reinstated in January 2001.
While all this was going on, the District Director of the INS, in June 2000, reviewed petitioner's custody and determined that he was ineligible for relief from deportation and that his detention should be continued. Petitioner then filed this petition in this Court.
On January 30, 2001, this Court denied the petition. While it concluded that the lengthy period of incarceration and the circumstances that led to it were regrettable, the District Director had not abused his discretion. Lawrence v. Reno, No. 00 Civ. 4559 (LAK), 2001 WL 80078 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 30, 2001). Petitioner, after several unsuccessful motions for reconsideration and other relief, appealed to the Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, it remanded the petition for consideration of (1) petitioner's extended detention in the Passaic County Jail and the York County Prison were improper, and (2) the continuing post-removal detention in light of Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 2001). It suggested also that the Court consider whether to appoint counsel.
On remand, this Court appointed counsel for Lawrence and directed the government to submit any review of petitioner's custody made after June 2000 or, if none had occurred, an explanation of why not. On March 24, 2003, the government submitted a letter which, among other things, (1) pointed out that petitioner had filed ten other petitions challenging his custody and/or removal order in six different districts, (2) noted that Lawrence's removal had been stayed continuously by orders obtained by Lawrence in various actions from September 28, 1998 until the date of the government's letter save [ Page 2]
for a period in 2001 of something over two months, and (3) explained that Lawrence's removal remained stayed in consequence of an order issue by Judge Amon in Lawrence v. INS, No. 01 Civ. 5303 (CBA), in the Eastern District of New York. It suggested that this proceeding be transferred to that district to permit Judge Amon to deal with all of Lawrence's remaining proceedings at one time. At a conference on April 14, 2003, the government informed the Court that petitioner's custody will not be reviewed while a stay of removal remains in effect and that it is willing to remove petitioner within ninety days if he would withdraw all pending litigation.
At the April 14, 2003 conference, the Court directed petitioner to respond to the government's transfer application and on the merits by May 14, 2003. On May 17, 2003, however, petitioner asked the Court to discharge his counsel although he withdrew that request on June 10, 2003.
On June 14, 2003, the Court conferred with both counsel. Petitioner's counsel expressed concern about remaining in the case notwithstanding the petitioner's change of heart. The government advised the Court that the stay in the Eastern District case remained in effect, that a second case by petitioner also is before Judge Amon there, and that it is ready to remove petitioner once all stays are lifted.
On June 23, 2003, petitioner's counsel sought leave to withdraw. The Court granted the application on the following day, appointed new counsel, and directed that papers be submitted by July 15. That date was extended twice more at petitioner's request. Finally, on or about August 18, 2003, petitioner's new counsel submitted a letter resisting transfer and addressing the merits.
To the best of the Court's information, petitioner now is in custody in New Jersey. He is not in this district, and there is no showing that he was here at the time the petition was filed. In view of the fact that he has filed many habeas petitions in at least six different districts, his choice of this forum — even if it technically was available to him in the sense that venue was proper here — is entitled to little weight. The interest of justice plainly warrants consolidating this matter with the cases already consolidated before Judge Amon not only because she is intimately familiar with Lawrence's situation by virtue of handling four petitions brought by him (two of which, having been consolidated, are the remaining matters before her in 01 Civ. 5303), but because it appears that the only thing standing between Lawrence and the speedy conclusion of the removal proceeding against him is the stay reportedly issued by Judge Amon.
Accordingly, this proceeding is hereby transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
SO ORDERED. [ Page 1]
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