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Ninth Circuit Holds BOP Individual RDAP Determinations Not Subject to Judicial Review

Individualized decisions related to the federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) are not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held.

Philip T. Reeb sought habeas relief after he was expelled from the RDAP at FCI Sheridan in Oregon in 2008 for “exhibiting disruptive behavior in group counseling sessions on several occasions.” In response to Reeb’s petition, the government argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear his claims because 18 U.S.C. § 3625 bars judicial review under the APA of “any determination, decision, or order under 18 U.S.C. §§ 3621-3625.”

The district court disagreed that it lacked jurisdiction, but nonetheless found no error in the BOP’s decision to remove Reeb from the RDAP. Reeb appealed and the government reasserted its jurisdictional argument before the Ninth Circuit.

Finding “no ambiguity” in § 3625, the Court of Appeals determined that “any substantive decision by the BOP to admit a particular prisoner into RDAP, or to grant or deny a sentence reduction for completion of the program is not reviewable by the district court.” Further, the appellate court wrote, “the BOP’s substantive decisions to remove particular inmates from the RDAP program are likewise not subject to judicial review.”

Reeb attempted to get around § 3625 by arguing that the BOP had violated its own program statement when expelling him from the RDAP, but the Ninth Circuit flatly rejected that argument: “A habeas claim cannot be sustained solely upon the BOP’s purported violation of its own program statement because noncompliance with a BOP program statement is not a violation of federal law.”

While § 3625 bars review of individualized determinations under the APA, the Court of Appeals noted that “judicial review remains available for allegations that BOP action is contrary to established federal law, violates the United States Constitution, or exceeds its statutory authority.” See: Reeb v. Thomas, 636 F.3d 1224 (9th Cir. 2011).

Previously, the Ninth Circuit had held that the BOP’s categorical exclusion from the RDAP of prisoners convicted of offenses involving possession, carrying or use of firearms violated the APA, as the BOP had failed to adequately explain its rationale for excluding such offenders from the program. See: Arrington v. Daniels, 516 F.3d 1106 (9th Cir. 2008) [PLN, June 2009, p.44].

Arrington, however, involved a general exclusionary rule, not an individualized determination to remove a prisoner from the RDAP as in Reeb’s case. Breaking with the Arrington ruling, the Third and Eighth Circuits held in 2009 that the BOP did not violate the APA by categorically excluding from the RDAP’s early release provision certain prisoners whose sentences included firearms enhancements. See: Gardner v. Grandolsky, 585 F.3d 786 (3d Cir. 2009) and Gatewood v. Outlaw, 560 F.3d 843 (8th Cir. 2009).

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Related legal cases

Reeb v. Thomas

Gardner v. Grandolsky

Gatewood v. Outlaw