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For nearly two decades, while Rocky Freeman was in federal prison, the United States treated him like a contract killer who murdered two victims even though the U.S. Probation Office knew that this information was false, and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) knew or should have known the same merely by looking at Freeman’s pre-sentence report (PSR). As a result, Freeman spent years subject to harsh conditions of confinement that he would not have experienced had probation or BOP officers acted with reasonable care. Since learning about this negligence, Freeman has sought repeatedly to remedy the various harms he suffered, including erroneous assignment to an institution with a reputation as the most dangerous BOP facility in the U.S. (where he was physically attacked by another inmate and could not see visitors), an unlawfully long stay in solitary confinement, and especially harsh restraints on escorted-medical trips.

Throughout this litigation, the government has sought procedural escape hatches. Most recently, after failing to raise the point in its first two dispositive motions, the government convinced the district court that Freeman had not presented his Federal Tort Claim Act (FTCA) claim and that FTCA presentment is a jurisdictional requirement. Both conclusions are wrong. FTCA presentment is a claims-processing rule, and the United States forfeited the defense by not raising it for nearly six years. Moreover, Freeman met any FTCA presentment requirement by submitting his claim to the Probation Office, which failed to either transfer it to the appropriate agency (the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts) or return the claim to Freeman. With these technical traps out of the way, the government must confront Freeman’s negligence claim on its merits. And while the government has so far succeeded in thwarting Freeman’s legitimate discovery requests, its position on the merits still hinges entirely on disputed facts that must be resolved by a jury.

The district court erected another spurious procedural roadblock in the way of Freeman’s due-process claims against three now-retired probation officers, who failed to provide accurate records to BOP, proximately causing injuries relating to Freeman’s conditions of confinement. Acting without a lawyer, in forma pauperis (IFP), and still incarcerated, Freeman provided these defendants’ last-known addresses to the U.S. Marshal. When Freeman learned that they had not been served because they had retired, he consistently asked for help identifying their current addresses. Eventually, the district court ordered the United States to help, but when the government failed to comply, the court dismissed the individual defendants for lack of service, holding, despite 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)’s mandate to the contrary, that Freeman was solely responsible for effectuating service.

This Court should reverse and remand so that Freeman can have his day in court on his FTCA and due-process claims.



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