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DC Prisoner's False Imprisonment Claims Survive Summary Judgment

A federal court in the District of Columbia (DC) refused to dismiss a former prisoner's claims that she was improperly confined 149 days past her sentence expiration date.

On December 15, 2005, Eloise Wormley was sentenced to 12 months in prison, but six months was suspended. She was transferred to a Fairview Halfway House (FHH) on May 30, 2006.

On June 2, 2006, Wormley left FHH to look for work, saying she would return at 2:30 p.m. When she did not return by 3 p.m., FHH staff informed the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that she had "escaped." Wormley returned at 5:22 p.m. She was transferred to DC General Hospital because "She appeared intoxicated and was combative with staff."

When Wormley returned to FHH later that evening, she was denied re-entry and told to turn herself into the United States Marshal's Service (USMS) on Monday, June 5, 2006. Wormley spent the weekend in a homeless shelter.

On June 5, 2006, BOP official Randal White issued a "Notice of Escaped Federal Prisoner," falsely claiming that Wormley did not return to FHH on June 2, 2006 and her whereabouts were unknown. Wormley turned herself into the DC Central Detention Facility on June 14, 2006. Her 6-month sentence resumed running on that date.

Adjusted for escape time and credit, Wormley's 6-month sentence expired on June 21, 2006. On that date, however, she was sentenced to 135 days in custody on an unrelated violation. That sentence expired October 21, 2006 but Wormley was not released on that date. "She would remain in custody, for no apparent legitimate reason for almost five more months." On March 19, 2007, she was finally released.

Wormley brought federal suit, alleging constitutional, Bivens, and state
negligence claims related to the 149-day illegal detention. Defendants moved to dismiss.
The district court first refused to dismiss a negligence claim that the halfway house "breached its duty of care by not allowing her to return to the Fairview facility after her combative behavior on June 2, 2006."

The court also rejected the federal Defendants' contention that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over four Defendants who "are covered by the DC long-arm statute."

Wormley's Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims survived dismissal. Although the court rejected the federal Defendants' statute of limitations defense to the Bivens claims, it concluded "that a Bivens remedy should not be extended to plaintiff's injuries" and "qualified immunity would ... shield each federal defendant from liability."

Observing that Wormley is covered by the class certification in Barnes v. District of Columbia,…Civ. No. 06-315 (D. D.C. Mar. 26, 2007), the court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss Wormley's claims "to avoid interference with Barnes." Instead, the court elected "to stay all claims as to District defendants."

The court finally rejected CCA's arguments that: Wormley's claims are foreclosed by Correctional Services Corp v. Malesko, 534 US 61 (2001); Wormley failed to exhaust available administrative remedies; and "CCA and its employees had no legal right to release Plaintiff." See: Wormley v. United States of America, USDC No. 08-0449 (RCL) (D. D.C. 2009)

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Related legal case

Wormley v. United States of America