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Qualified Immunity for Parole Commissioner Accused of Biased Decision Making

by David Reutter

District of Columbia Court of Appeals held the former chairman of the United States Parole Commission was entitled to qualified immunity in a prisoner's lawsuit alleging that his denials of parole were infected by unconstitutional decision making.

Prisoner Jesse R. Redmond, Jr., was convicted in 1996 of one count of first degree sexual assault and sentenced to 15 years to life by a District of Columbia court. Despite a hearing examiner's finding that Redmond should be paroled under the applicable parole guidelines, he was twice denied parole.

Redmond sued Issac Fulwood, Jr., the former chair of the U.S. Parole Commission, and the district court dismissed the action upon a finding that Fulwood was absolutely immune from suit. The D.C. Court of Appeals did not reach that question because it found Fulwood was entitled to qualified immunity.

In making that finding, the court found that as Fulwood was sued in his personal capacity, it had to limit its review to Fulwood's denial of Redmond's request for reconsideration of the adverse parole determination. The court found nothing unconstitutional in Fulwood acknowledging that Redwood was acquitted on an oral sodomy charge, and that he "volunteer" for a sex offender treatment program. The court found no error of "constitutional moment" because the parole guidelines were overrode to deny parole.

It also found qualified immunity applied to the "allegations of bias arising from the nature of [Redmond's] crime because there is no clearly established right for parole-eligible prisoners to be treated equally in the parole process regardless of the nature of seriousness of their crimes." "Finally, no clearly established First or Fifth Amendment law prohibited Fulwood's consideration of Redmond's refusal to acknowledge culpability.

The district court's order was affirmed.

See: Redmond v. Fulwood, No. 15-5145 (D.C. Cir. 2017)


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Related legal case

Redmond v. Fulwood



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