Harclerode v. Harry et al
MEMORANDUM re REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5 and pltf's Objns 8 to Report and Recommendations (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable William W. Caldwell on 09/11/14. (ma)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
LAUREL HARRY, et al.,
: CIVIL NO. 1:14-CV-01454
We are considering Petitioner’s objections to the Report and
Recommendations of Magistrate Judge Mehalchick. (Doc. 5). Petitioner, a state
prisoner, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc.
1). Petitioner claims that he has been denied parole in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment and Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. (Id.). Magistrate
Judge Mehalchick recommends that the petition be denied and dismissed with prejudice.
She further recommends that the court decline to issue a certificate of appealability.
(Doc. 5). Because Petitioner filed objections (Doc. 8), we must “make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed finding or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). For the
following reasons, we agree with the findings of the magistrate judge and will adopt the
report in its entirety.
The magistrate judge’s report outlines the facts of this case, so we will not
repeat them here.
A. Petitioner Fails to Establish a Cognizable Claim Under the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Petitioner objects to the magistrate’s determination that the denials of
Petitioner’s parole applications were not sufficiently arbitrary to constitute a violation of
his substantive due process rights. (Doc. 8). Petitioner argues that the Respondents
denied him parole because he had not completed sufficient inmate treatment
programming, and this decision was unconstitutionally arbitrary because he completed all
programs offered at the correctional institution where he is imprisoned. (Id.). Petitioner
also claims he was arbitrarily denied parole because the Parole Board falsely determined
that he posed a risk to the community. (Id.).
“Once a state institutes a parole system all prisoners have a liberty interest
flowing directly from the due process clause in not being denied parole for arbitrary or
constitutionally impermissible reasons.” Block v. Potter, 631 F.2d 233, 236 (3d Cir.
1980). Federal courts, however, “are not authorized by the due process clause to
second-guess parole boards and the requirements of substantive due process are met if
there is some basis for the challenged decision.” Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 487
(3d Cir. 2001). “Only the most egregious official conduct [that shocks the conscience]
can be said to be arbitrary in the constitutional sense.” County of Sacramento v. Lewis,
523 U.S. 833, 834 (1998).
We agree that Respondents’ determinations to deny Petitioner parole
were not unconstitutionally arbitrary. First, Petitioner’s parole applications have never
been denied solely for failure to complete inmate treatment programs. See, e.g., Watkins
v. Shannon, No. 3:CV-06-1028, 2006 WL 2950478 at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 16, 2006)
(considering all factors when determining if decision was arbitrary). On the four parole
applications that the Respondents identified lack of treatment programming as a factor in
its determination to deny parole,1 the Respondents also identified additional factors in its
determination, including seriousness of the offense and a history that reflects an ongoing
risk to the community. Despite Petitioner’s claim that he is not a risk to the community,
“[i]t is for the Board alone to determine whether or not a prisoner is sufficiently
rehabilitated to serve the remainder of his sentence outside the confines of prison.”
Anderson v. Pa. Bd. of Prob. and Parole, No. 4:CV-05-00163, 2006 WL 1149233 at *2
(M.D. Pa. April 26, 2006) (citing Myers v. Ridge, 712 A.2d 791, 794 (Pa. Commw. Ct.
1998). We will not second-guess that determination. Additionally, even if Petitioner has
completed all treatment programs, Pennsylvania’s parole scheme does not create a
predictable expectation of parole upon completion of a rehabilitation program. Charles v.
Whitman, Civ. No. 3:CV-94-1713, slip op. at 3 (M.D. Pa. July 20, 1995). Therefore, there
1. Lack of inmate treatment was a factor in Respondents’ determination to deny
Petitioner parole in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2008. (Doc. 1-1 at 31-39).
is “some basis” for Petitioner’s parole applications to be denied, and Respondents’
conduct cannot be said to be so egregious as to shock the conscience.
B. Petitioner Fails to Assert a Cognizable Claim Under the Supremacy
Petitioner objects to Magistrate Judge Mehalchick’s determination that he
failed to assert a separate claim under the Supremacy Clause. We agree that Petitioner
has failed to establish a separate claim. Petitioner, in essence, claims that Pennsylvania
officials violated the Fourteenth Amendment, therefore causing Pennsylvania law to
supersede the United States Constitution. Petitioner’s Fourteenth Amendment and
Supremacy Clause claims are one in the same. Because we have found no merit to
Petitioner’s Fourteenth Amendment claim, his Supremacy Clause claim must fall with it.
We will issue an order denying the section 2254 petition. The order will
also deny a certificate of appealability, based on the analysis in this memorandum.
However, Petitioner is advised that he has the right for thirty (30) days to appeal our order
denying his 2254 petition, see 28 U.S.C. § 2253(a); Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(1)(A), and that
our denial of a certificate of appealability does not prevent him from doing so, as long as
he also seeks a certificate of appealability from the court of appeals. See Fed. R. App. P.
22; Local Rule of Appellate Procedure 22.1.
/s/William W. Caldwell
William W. Caldwell
United States District Judge
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