Chapman v. Bureau of Prisons: Stopping the Venue Merry-Go-Round

96 Denver L. Rev. Online 9 (2018)

7 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2018 Last revised: 4 Mar 2019

See all articles by Danielle C. Jefferis

Danielle C. Jefferis

California Western School of Law

Nicole B. Godfrey

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2018

Abstract

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is in a unique position to frustrate the federal venue statute. In contrast to most state departments of corrections, the BOP bears the unilateral power to transfer prisoners in its custody to prisons across federal judicial districts. At times, the agency exercises this power over prisoners involved in active litigation against the BOP itself. In many of these instances, once the BOP has moved the prisoner-plaintiff outside the judicial district in which the plaintiff brought his claim, the BOP seeks to transfer the claim to the prisoner’s “new” venue. Increasingly, prisoners’ rights advocates are witnessing efforts by the BOP to secure judicial sanctioning of this conduct.

This practice is problematic and should be resisted so that the BOP is not permitted to situate federal prisoners on a “venue merry-go-round” and virtually evade judicial review of claims challenging the agency’s conduct. In one such case, Chapman v. Bureau of Prisons, the BOP attempted to do just that—evade judicial review of its conduct—by moving the plaintiff from a prison in Colorado to one in Indiana. The agency then sought transfer, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), of the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against it from the District of Colorado, the venue in which the plaintiff brought the claim, to the Southern District of Indiana, the venue to which the agency moved the plaintiff. The transferee court declined to sanction the practice, citing the plain language of Section 1404 and the statute’s purpose. Courts facing similar questions should reach the same conclusion.

Keywords: civil procedure, prisoners' rights, venue, bureau of prisons, transfer

Suggested Citation

Jefferis, Danielle C. and Godfrey, Nicole B., Chapman v. Bureau of Prisons: Stopping the Venue Merry-Go-Round (August 1, 2018). 96 Denver L. Rev. Online 9 (2018), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3213762

Danielle C. Jefferis (Contact Author)

California Western School of Law ( email )

225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
United States

Nicole B. Godfrey

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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