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D'Amario v. Weiner

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 8, 2013



JUAN R. SNCHEZ, District Judge.

Plaintiff Arthur D'Amario, III, brings claims against Barry Weiner, Chief of the United States Probation Office for the District of Rhode Island, and Kathleen Hopkins, a Probation Officer in the same office, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), based on his allegations that these Defendants effectively banished him from Rhode Island by prohibiting him from serving his supervised release there. Defendants seek summary judgment on this claim on the basis that they are entitled to qualified immunity.[1] For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion will be granted.


D'Amario was convicted in 1999 in the District of Rhode Island for being a felon in possession of a firearm. See United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 99-24 (D.R.I.); see also United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 99-30 (D.N.H.). He was subsequently convicted in the District of New Jersey for threatening a federal judge. See United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 01-346 (D.N.J.). While serving a term of supervised release imposed in the District of Rhode Island, D'Amario was arrested for threatening another federal judge. United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 06-112 (D.N.J.); see also United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 99-24 (D.R.I.) (ECF No. 494); United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 01-346 (D.N.J.) (ECF No. 181). He was convicted and sentenced to eighty-four months of imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 06-112 (D.N.J.) (ECF No. 214).

At the time D'Amario filed the instant lawsuit, he had recently been released from federal prison and was serving his term of supervised release in the District of New Jersey. His Amended Complaint alleges Weiner, Hopkins, and several other Defendants participated in a conspiracy to rig the entire federal judiciary against him for several decades, cause the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to miscalculate his sentence, and subject him to unfair conditions of supervised release. He also alleges that Weiner and Hopkins effectively "banished" him from Rhode Island, his home state, by preventing him from serving or transferring his supervised release there.

In a February 2013 Memorandum and Order, the Court granted D'Amario leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed the majority of his claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), but permitted D'Amario to proceed on his Bivens claim against Weiner and Hopkins based on his inability to transfer his supervised release to Rhode Island. See ECF Nos. 10 & 11. After service of the Amended Complaint, Weiner and Hopkins filed a motion for summary judgment, to which D'Amario responded. In the meantime, D'Amario violated the terms of his supervised release, and his supervised release was revoked in the District of New Jersey. See United States v. D'Amario, Crim. A. No. 06-112 (D.N.J.) (ECF No. 483). He was sentenced to a twenty-four month term of imprisonment with no supervised release to follow. Id.


Defendants have supported their summary judgment motion with portions of Volume 8 of the Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures (the Guide), Defendant Weiner's declaration, and Probation Office records. The Guide provides two ways for an offender to serve his supervised release in a given district. Weiner Decl. ¶ 3. The BOP may arrange for the offender to be released to a particular district during pre-release planning (i.e., while the offender is still incarcerated) by submitting a release plan to the probation officer for investigation and approval or disapproval. Id; Guide §§ 330-330.20. Alternatively, after the offender is released, the district in which he was released may transfer supervision to another district by submitting a request to the transferee district for investigation and approval. Weiner Decl. ¶ 3; Guide §§ 375-375.30. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether transfer is appropriate are whether the offender has a support system or family ties to the transferee district and whether he has a proposed residence there. Weiner Decl. ¶ 6; Guide § 375.20.

According to Weiner's declaration, the District of Rhode Island received only one formal request for a transfer in D'Amario's case, which came from the BOP during pre-release planning and proposed that D'Amario reside with an aunt in Warwick, Rhode Island. Weiner Decl. ¶¶ 4-5 & Ex. 1. Hopkins investigated the request by calling D'Amario's aunt, who informed Hopkins that D'Amario could not reside with her because she had not been in contact with him and, in any event, lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Weiner Decl. ¶ 7 & Ex. 2. Accordingly, Hopkins denied the transfer request. Weiner Decl. ¶¶ 7-9 & Exs. 2-4. The Probation Office in the District of Rhode Island did not receive any other formal requests for a transfer. Weiner Decl. ¶ 10. Furthermore, Weiner was unaware of any suitable housing arrangement for D'Amario in the District, although he asserts that, if the supervising probation officer in the District of New Jersey had proposed a transfer, his office would have "investigate[d] and advise[d] accordingly." Id. Weiner further notes that any subsequent requests for transfer would have been "subject to the Special Condition of Supervised Release imposed upon Mr. D'Amario by Judge William G. Young, D.Mass., in District of Rhode Island cases 99-CR 24 and 03-MC-56, that D'Amario is prohibited from returning [to] Rhode Island during the period of supervised release without the and the Probation Office." Id.

In response to Defendants' summary judgment motion, D'Amario submitted an unsigned declaration, [3] a 2010 letter reflecting that he had been on the waiting list for a "very-low income" apartment in Rhode Island, and a motion filed by an Assistant United States Attorney in the First Circuit in connection with one of D'Amario's appeals. In his declaration, D'Amario states Defendants falsified their evidence in connection with "an orchestrated hoax to sabotage [his] release to RI and exile [him] in NJ." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 6. In that regard, he disputes that he proposed to reside with his aunt in Rhode Island. Id. ¶ 5. Rather, D'Amario alleges in October 2011 he provided "C.E. Wells and C. Sylvester of VVM, " who appears to have been a case manager at a federal prison, with documentation reflecting he was "on the waiting list for a section 8 apartment" in Rhode Island. Id. ¶ 6. However, by the time D'Amario was released from prison on June 20, 2012, his name "had been deleted from that waiting list." Id. D'Amario believes Defendants caused his housing opportunity in Rhode Island to fall through, and claims Weiner similarly banished him from Rhode Island during a prior term of supervised release in 2003. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Additionally, he attests that a probation officer in Camden, New Jersey informed him Weiner "does not want [him] in Rhode Island." Id. ¶ 2. Finally, D'Amario contends he should not have been subject to the special condition imposed by Judge Young because that condition had "expired." Id. ¶ 1; Supp. Mem.


Summary judgment shall be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Material" facts are those facts "that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted).

The doctrine of qualified immunity shields government officials "from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). "To determine whether defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, [the Court] must ask whether the facts alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right, and whether the right was clearly established." Henry v. City of Erie, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 4498669, at *4 (3d Cir. Aug. 23, 2013) (quotations omitted). A district court may "exercise [its] sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 228, 236 (2009).

Weiner and Hopkins argue they are entitled to qualified immunity from D'Amario's claims because they did not violate his clearly established constitutional rights. They note they did not refuse to allow D'Amario to transfer his supervision to Rhode Island. Rather, they simply investigated the one proposal they received from the BOP-that ...

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