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Sokolov v. Holder

United States District Court, Second Circuit

August 13, 2013

ALEKSANDR SOKOLOV, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC HOLDER, JR., JANET NAPOLITANO, CHRISTOPHER SHANAHAN, and ROBERT BIGOTT, Respondents.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Petitioner Aleksandr Sokolov ("Sokolov"), proceeding pro se, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Sokolov's petition seeks his immediate release from the custody of the United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), and challenges, on constitutional and statutory grounds, the length of his detention following the issuance of a final order of removal from the United States as to him. Respondents Eric Holder, Jr. (the United States Attorney General), Janet Napolitano (Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security), Christopher Shanahan (acting Assistant Director for field operations for ICE), and Robert Bigott (the Warden of the Bergen County Jail) (collectively, "respondents") oppose Sokolov's petition. They argue that, because Sokolov was released from detention after he filed the petition, his petition should be dismissed as moot. In the alternative, they argue that the petition should be transferred to the District of New Jersey, where Sokolov was previously detained.

For the reasons that follow, the Court dismisses Sokolov's petition as moot.

I. Background and Procedural History

On February 24, 2012, Sokolov, a native and citizen of Russia, was ordered removed from the United States. See Petition ("Pet.") (Dkt. 1) ¶¶ 8-9; Return to Habeas Petition ("Ret.") (Dkt. 7) ¶ 1. On March 3, 2012, Sokolov's petition states, he "was arrested in Brooklyn, NY for criminal possession of [a] controlled substance in the 7th degree and petit larceny in the 4th degree." Pet. ¶ 9; see also Pet. Ex. 2. On July 17, 2012, after having been released from criminal custody, Sokolov was taken into ICE custody. Pet. ¶ 10; Ret. ¶ 2.

While Sokolov was detained in ICE custody, ICE (with Sokolov's cooperation) attempted to obtain the travel documents necessary for him to be repatriated to Russia. Pet. ¶ 13; Ret. ¶ 3. By all accounts, such efforts were unsuccessful. Pet. ¶ 13; Ret. ¶ 5. On October 11, 2012, ICE informed Sokolov by letter that his custody status had been reviewed and that he would not be released from custody at that time. Pet. Ex. 2; see also id. ¶ 11. That letter stated that "ICE [was] working closely with the Consulate General of Russia to procure a travel document for [Sokolov's] removal." Pet. Ex. 2. On January 18, 2013, Sokolov received another letter informing him that his status had once again been reviewed, and that he would remain in ICE custody, because his "removal to Russia [was] expected to occur in the reasonably foreseeable future." Pet. Ex. 3; see also id. ¶ 13.

On February 7, 2013, Sokolov filed the instant petition. Dkt. 1. On March 12, 2013, the case was assigned to this Court. Dkt. 4. On March 14, 2013, the Court issued an order directing the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York to answer the petition within 60 days, and Sokolov to submit any reply papers within 30 days from the date he received respondents' answer. Dkt. 6.

On May 7, 2013, respondents filed a return to the habeas petition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243, and a memorandum of law opposing the petition. Dkt. 7-8. Respondents included with those documents a "Release Notification" that indicates that, since Sokolov filed his petition, he has been released from ICE custody on an Order of Supervision. See Ret. Ex. A. The respondents represent that Sokolov was released based upon ICE's determination on March 8, 2013 "that it was unlikely to obtain a travel document to remove Sokolov in the reasonably foreseeable future." Ret. ¶ 5.

The Court has received no reply papers from Sokolov.

II. Discussion

Sokolov argued in his petition that his detention violated his constitutional due process rights and 8 U.S.C. § 1231. In Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court held that that statute- which authorizes the Attorney General to detain an alien ordered removed beyond the usual 90-day statutory "removal period" in certain situations-contains an implicit "reasonable time" limitation, and that continued detention becomes unreasonable when "removal is not reasonably foreseeable." 533 U.S. 678, 682, 699-700 (2001). The Court in Zadvydas stated that six months was a presumptively reasonable detention period in such cases; after six months, "once the alien provides good reason to believe that there is no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future, the Government must respond with evidence sufficient to rebut that showing." Id. at 701. At the time Sokolov filed his petition, he had been detained for close to seven months.

Respondents argue that, because of Sokolov's subsequent release from ICE custody, his petition, which seeks that very release, is now moot. On this ground, they argue, the Court should dismiss the petition.

A court's "lack of jurisdiction to review moot cases derives from the requirement of Article III of the Constitution under which the exercise of judicial power depends upon the existence of a case or controversy." Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 306 n.3 (1964); see also DeFunis v. Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312, 316 (1974) (per curiam); Fox v. Bd. of Trustees of State Univ. of N.Y., 42 F.3d 135, 139-40 (2d Cir. 1994). "To qualify as a case fit for federal-court adjudication, an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67 (1997) (citations omitted).

Courts in this Circuit have held that a petitioner's release from custody generally moots a habeas petition challenging that custody. See, e.g., Pierrilus v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, 293 F.Appx. 78, 79 (2d Cir. 2008) (summary order) ("[P]etitioner's challenge to the length of his detention is moot as a result of his release from DHS custody. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, ... we retain jurisdiction so long as the petitioner is in custody." (citation omitted)); Edwards v. Ashcroft, 126 F.Appx. 4, 4 (2d Cir. 2005) (summary order) ("[Petitioner]'s release renders the issues presented in this appeal moot, and[] we must dismiss his appeal."); Masoud v. Filip, No. 08-CV-6345-CJS-VEB, 2009 WL 223006, at *6 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2009) (Report & Recommendation) ("When a habeas petitioner has been released from custody after filing a petition, the petition may be moot."); Baptiste v. I.N.S., No. 06-CV-0615 (NG), 2006 WL 3050884, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 23, 2006) (collecting cases in which courts have held habeas petitions moot upon petitioner's release from custody); Sayavong v. McElroy, ...


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