United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
W. deGRAVELLES JUDGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court on the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion
to Dismiss (Doc. 11) filed by Defendant Sheryl Ranatza.
Plaintiff Carson Thomas opposes the motion. (Doc. 17.) No.
reply was filed. The Court has carefully considered the law,
the facts in the record, and the arguments and submissions of
the parties and is prepared to rule. For the following
reasons, Defendant's motion is denied.
Relevant Factual Background
following allegations are taken from the Complaint for
Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
“Compl.”) (Doc. 1). They are assumed to
be true for purposes of this motion. Thompson v. City of
Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014).
is an inmate housed at Dixon Correctional Institute.
(Compl. at 1.) Plaintiff brings this § 1983
action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief
“alleging violation of Due Process, ex post
facto application of law and of a liberty interest
cognizable under the United States Constitution and created
by the State of Louisiana.” (Id. ¶ 2.)
in this action are James LeBlanc, Secretary of the Louisiana
Department of Public Safety and Corrections
(“DPSC”), and “The Committee on Parole of
the Louisiana Board of Pardons through the chair, Sheryl
Ranatza.” (Id. ¶ 1.) Only Ranatza brings
February 9, 1997, Plaintiff was arrested for one count of
armed robbery. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.) Plaintiff
was convicted and sentenced to 50 years with credit for time
served. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff's sentence was
later amended to 30 years with credit for time served.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff has served 21 years and is
currently 46 years old. (Id. ¶ 7.)
most of the past 20 years, ” Plaintiff's
“master prison records reflect[ed] a parole eligibility
date of 2017”. (Id. ¶ 7.) This is because
of Act 790, also known as “geriatric parole, ”
which “provides an offender serving 30 years or greater
shall be eligible for parole upon serving 20 years of his
sentence and attaining the age of 45.” (Id.
October 12, 2016, Plaintiff “was brought before the
Committee on Parole for his initial parole hearing pursuant
to Act 790.” (Compl. ¶ 8.) “Upon
entering the parole hearing, Mr. Thomas was informed - for
the first time - that he is not parole eligible under Act 790
and must serve 85% of his sentence before becoming parole
eligible, pursuant to Act 1099.” (Id. ¶
devotes an entire section of his Complaint to the passage and
legislative history of Act 60 of 1987 and Act 760 of 1990.
(Compl. ¶¶ 9-18.) This section describes
the development of “geriatric parole” in
section then describes Act 1099 of 1995, “which changed
the rate at which offenders earned good time for
crimes of violence.” (Compl. ¶ 19.) Act
1099 “specifically decreased the rate at which
prisoners earned good time for crimes of violence,
requiring that for such offenses the offender must serve 85%
of his sentence before being eligible for release on good
time.” (Id.) Plaintiff then details the
legislative history of this act. (Id. ¶¶
the Complaint describes Act 624 of 2008, which
“specifically removed those individuals convicted of
armed robbery from geriatric parole eligibility.”
(Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff alleges that the law took
effect in August of 2008 and “applied prospectively to
all armed robberies committed on or after this date.”
then claims that, because he was arrested on February 9,
1997, for armed robbery, has served 21 years of his sentence,
and is 46 years old, “[h]e is therefore eligible for
geriatric parole under Act 790.” (Compl.
¶ 23.) Plaintiff further asserts:
In denying Mr. Thomas parole eligibility, the DPSC relied
upon Act 1099 and stated that Mr. Thomas must serve 85% of
his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. However,
parole and good time are clearly distinct
forms of statutory release. While Mr. Thomas is ineligible
for release on good time until he has served 85% of
his sentence, Mr. Thomas' eligibility for geriatric
parole is unaffected, as his offense occurred prior to 2008,
when the legislature clearly removed armed robbers from
geriatric parole eligibility. . . .
In denying his second-step, the Department of Corrections
informed Mr. Thomas that pursuant to DPSC Regulation B-04-004
F(2), geriatric parole (Act 790) does not apply to offenders
with offense dates committed on or after January 1, 1997.
Clearly, DPSC has arbitrarily modified its internal
regulations, as B-04-004F(2) previously provided:
F. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, unless
eligible for parole at an earlier date, an offender sentenced
for a term of imprisonment with or without benefit of parole
for 30 years or more shall be eligible for parole
consideration upon serving at least 20 years in actual
custody and upon reaching the age of 45. (Act No. 790 of the
1990 Regular Session). Note: Those offenders convicted of a
crime of violence on or after January 1, 1997 must also have
served at least 85% of the sentence imposed.
1) The above provision does not apply to those offenders who
are serving a life sentence.
2) Pursuant to Act No. 624 of the 2008 Regular Session, the
above provision does not apply to those offenders convicted
of La. R.S. 14:64 when the offense was committed on or
after August 15, 2008.
(Id. (emphasis by Plaintiff).)
alleges on information and belief, that “there are
other individuals similarly situated to [Plaintiff], who
committed an armed robbery prior to August 15, 2008 and are
being denied geriatric parole eligibility under Act
790.” (Id. ¶ 25.) According to Plaintiff,
he has “received at least three master prison records
that reflected a parole eligibility date in accordance with
Act 790.” (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff claims:
Because of the inscribing of the master prison record with a
parole eligibility release under Act 790, the regulation
B-04-004 and the actual practice of the DPSC and the
Committee on Parole, a liberty interest has been created. The
expectation of the population of armed robbery offenders
whose offense dates are between January l, 1997 and August
15, 2008, is that they will receive a fair parole hearing
upon reaching the"20/45" provisions of the
geriatric parole statute.
(Id. ¶ 27.)
next discusses “certain agreements” made between
DPSC and counsel for Plaintiff in litigation entitled
David Tell v. Richard Stalder, Number 541, 059,
Section 8, Nineteenth Judicial District Court, Parish of East
Baton Rouge, State of Louisiana. (Compl.
¶¶ 28-32.) Under one agreement, “the outcome
of the Tell litigation would apply to all prisoners
with armed robbery convictions.” (Id. ¶
29.) In another, “master records would reflect the Act
790 dates for armed robbery inmates.”
(Id.¶ 30.) Further, the parties “agreed
in the Tell litigation that no appeal would be taken
from the State District Court ruling in Tell and
that Tell would go final.” (Id.
¶ 31.) According to Plaintiff, this last agreement
“further set[s] up an expectation that the
“20/45” practice would continue.”
(Id. ¶ 32.)
then makes allegations about another settlement in
Francis v. Leblanc, No. 13-5691-JJB-RLB (M.D. La.).
(Compl. ¶ 33.) Specifically, Plaintiff asserts:
At issue in this case was that the DPSC had removed parole
eligibility from armed robbers whose offenses occurred prior
to January l, 1997. As part of the settlement order, the DPSC
agreed to restore Act 790 parole eligibility to those
offenders whose armed robbery offense occurred prior to
January 1, 1997. . . . However, the Francis decision
pretermitted any decision ...