Kuehner v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 10/17/16. (bs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-1576
COMM. OF PENNSYLVANIA,
Petitioner, Terry Kuehner, an inmate currently confined in the Retreat
State Correctional Institution, (“SCI-Retreat”), Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania,
filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254.
(Doc. 1). By Notice of Election dated September 28, 2016, Petitioner elected
to have his petition ruled on as filed. (Doc. 7).
Petitioner claims that his “Due Process was not protected, but violated
and enduced (sic) by the named actors where intervention is required by law
for relief of ‘Legal Error’ and Constitutional Protections” when the following
(1) The defendants named within this action failed and violated
there (sic) Penological goals of a Ligitimate (sic) interest in
effective management of a State Detention Facility, that created
a viable cause of action based upon the Trust of the Legistors
(sic) intent of the Policy and Rules and Regulations of the DCADM. Petitioner is going off the recorded record of file.
(2) The Department of Corrections, either willfully or unintenshally
(sic), they failed to reinstate money back on my account, as per
policy and the rules of the agreed upon/contract of the DC-ADM
002, which enduced (sic) improper service of cable TV Cable,
and improper service of repair after several requests and
grievances filed that enduced (sic) Theft of Deception of unlawful
taken of my money off my account while in there (sic) care, and
violated the Trust that was invested to them as a State Agency.
(3) The defendants named within this Civil Action did everything
to avoid the return of the reinstatement of money as required and
wasted time and letters, etc to obtain relief which was completely
in violations of Due Process and law.
(4) The said name actors did in fact, Harrised (sic) me,
intimidated me, and retaliated against me, by staffs, false
misconducts and even for serving them legal mail as per Rule of
Civil Procedure 270 to where I got cell restriction, and got my
level increased from a level two, to a level three, where my
daughter and granddaughter came to see me and were turned
away because the level three, only aloud (sic) one visit a week,
and they never told me or give me nothing in writing of the level
increase, which brought undue stress on myself and family. That
was part of my sanction of there (sic) misconduct.
(5) The mailroom and staff did interfere with my legal mail by
withholding a letter from the Prothonotary’s Office, and the return
of the sheriff’s papers that the sheriff served them with and held
them for 17 days before they returned them to me, to where I
had to get them reinstated again and serve them which cost more
money for postage and time, which violated Due Process under
the inmate mailbox rule and procedure, etc.
Id. For relief, Plaintiff “prays that the Honorable Court Judges brings justice
to the Plaintiff and grants this Civil Action in its entirety, and of the maximum
allowance by law, and brings protections needed to the Plaintiff in this Civil
Action for relief.” (Doc. 2 at 11). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
will dismiss the petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to
Rule 4 (“Preliminary Review; Serving the Petition and Order”) of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28
U.S.C. foll. §2254 (1977) (applicable to §2241 petitions through Rule 1(b)).
See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F.Supp. 156, 158–59 (M.D.Pa.1979). Rule
4 provides, in pertinent part, “If it plainly appears from the petition and any
attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court,
the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the
petitioner.” A petition may be dismissed without review of an answer “when
the petition is frivolous, or obviously lacking in merit, or where ... the
necessary facts can be determined from the petition itself.” Allen v. Perini,
26 Ohio Misc. 149, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 400 U.S. 906
(1970). The Allen court also stated that “the District Court has a duty to
screen out a habeas corpus petition which should be dismissed for lack of
merit on its face.” Id.
It is well-settled that a habeas corpus petition may be brought by a
prisoner who seeks to challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement
in prison. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 498–99 (1973). Federal
habeas corpus review is available only “where the deprivation of rights is
such that it necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention.” Leamer v.
Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).
In the instant case, Petitioner’s challenge to the alleged actions of the
Department of Corrections’ employees is not a challenge to the fact or
duration of his confinement. He does not claim that his judgment of
conviction was invalid or that he is being confined in prison unlawfully. He
does not seek release from prison, nor does he seek to be released sooner
from prison. Rather, Petitioner believes that he has been wrongly denied a
refund on his cable services, as well as being wrongfully increased from a
level two to a level three security. These actions, however, do not affect the
length of his sentence. Significantly, Petitioner does not seek relief that would
shorten the length of his current sentence and incarceration in prison. Nor
does he seek release from prison by attacking the legality of his judgment or
conviction. Therefore, his claims are not properly asserted in a habeas
petition brought under 28 U.S.C. §2254, but rather must be pursued through
the filing of a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. See, e.g.,
Leamer, 288 F.3d at 542 (“whenever the challenge ultimately attacks the
‘core of habeas’—the validity of the continued conviction or the fact or length
of the sentence—a challenge, however denominated and regardless of the
relief sought, must be brought by way of a habeas corpus petition.
Conversely, when the challenge is to a condition of confinement such that a
finding in plaintiff’s favor would not alter his sentence or undo his conviction,
an action under §1983 is appropriate”); Spruill v. Rosemeyer, 36 App’x 488,
489 (3d Cir. 2002). (“There are no material differences for purposes of this
disciplined him by placing him in segregated housing for one month and
transferring him to a higher security prison in retaliation for exercising his First
Amendment Rights—and the claims in Leamer. The appellant challenges the
conditions of his confinement, not the fact or duration thereof, and such a
challenge could not have been brought by means of a habeas action.”).
Accordingly, the claims in the instant petition are not appropriate under a
§2254 petition and will be dismissed without prejudice to any right Petitioner
may have to reassert his present claims in a properly filed civil rights
complaint.1 See Wool v. York Cnty. Prison, Civil No. 98-0138, slip op. at 2-3
(M.D. Pa. January 30, 1998) (McClure, J.); Hewlitt v. Holland, Civil No. 961075, slip op. at 9 (M.D. Pa. July 2, 1997) (Nealon, J.) (“Because the
petitioner will not be allowed to elude the filing fee requirements of the PLRA,
his claims will be dismissed without prejudice, as they are not habeas corpus
claims, but rather claims relating to the conditions of his confinement that
should more appropriately be brought under the Civil Rights Acts.”).
For the reasons stated above, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
In this regard, the Court expresses no opinion as to the merits, if any,
of any civil rights claim Petitioner may file based upon the facts asserted
will be DISMISSED. An appropriate order will follow.
s/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Dated: October 17, 2016
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2016 MEMORANDA\16-1576-01.wpd
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