Cooper v. Ransom et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Bruce X. Cooper. Signed by Chief Judge Matthew W. Brann on 9/16/2022. (lg)
Case 4:21-cv-01533-MWB-MP Document 15 Filed 09/16/22 Page 1 of 5
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
BRUCE X. COOPER,
(Chief Judge Brann)
SEPTEMBER 16, 2022
Petitioner Bruce X. Cooper is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania (SCI Dallas). He filed the instant pro se
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking
immediate release from custody due to the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged
conditions of confinement at SCI Dallas. Because Cooper has failed to exhaust
state remedies, the Court must dismiss his Section 2254 petition.
According to Cooper’s petition, he is serving a sentence of life without
parole and is currently imprisoned at SCI Dallas.2 Cooper avers that in December
Although Cooper names multiple respondents, the only proper respondent in this habeas corpus
action challenging physical confinement is the superintendent of Cooper’s facility of
incarceration, i.e. his “immediate custodian.” See Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 434-35,
439 (2004) (citations omitted); 28 U.S.C. § 2242; 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(a).
Doc. 1 at 1.
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2020, he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and was quarantined.3 He asserts
that he is categorized as “higher risk” for infection and complications from the
virus as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).4
Cooper alleges that he is 65 and suffers from serious medical conditions including
blood clots, heart disease, hyponatremia, respiratory issues, dyslipidemia, and
chronic anticoagulant use.5
Thus, according to Cooper, he is “in imminent danger” of reinfection and
injury due to the alleged conditions of confinement as SCI Dallas.6 He avers that
these conditions include—among other things—a largely unvaccinated correctional
staff, correctional officers who refuse to mask, insufficient COVID-19 testing in
the facility, and the inability of inmates to socially distance.7 Cooper challenges
“his detention as unconstitutional and seeks relief in the form of immediate
compassionate release from detention.”8
Assuming, without deciding, that Cooper can seek immediate release from
state custody under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 based on a conditions-of-confinement claim
Id. at 2 ¶ 1. Cooper also “assume[s]” that he contracted COVID-19 in February 2020 due to
experiencing a collapsed lung “for no apparent reason” and having to be hospitalized twice for
serious respiratory issues. Id. at 4 ¶ 15.
Id. at 2 ¶ 2.
Id. at 2 ¶ 3.
Id. at 2-3 ¶¶ 3-5.
Id. at 3-7 ¶¶ 4, 9-13, 22, 27, 32.
Id. at 8 ¶ 38.
Case 4:21-cv-01533-MWB-MP Document 15 Filed 09/16/22 Page 3 of 5
invoking state prison conditions,9 Cooper must first exhaust available state-court
remedies. Claims raised in a habeas corpus petition under Section 2254 generally
are required to be exhausted in state court.10 “Exhaustion addresses federalism and
comity concerns by affording the state courts a meaningful opportunity to consider
allegations of legal error without interference from the federal judiciary.”11
Exhaustion should not be “overlooked lightly,”12 and will not be excused simply
because a petitioner believes his claims will be denied on the merits in state
court.13 To properly exhaust a claim, a petitioner must “fairly present” the claim to
each level of the state courts.14 And the “burden of establishing” proper exhaustion
“falls upon the petitioner.”15
Cooper has—or at least had—available state court remedies. First, Cooper
could have sought compassionate release with the sentencing court under 42 PA.
CONS. STAT. § 9777. Cooper does not allege that he filed any such petition with
the sentencing court, nor is such a petition reflected on his state-court docket.16
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recognized such habeas claims in
“extreme cases” with respect to habeas petitions filed by immigration detainees under 28
U.S.C. § 2241. See Hope v. Warden York Cnty. Prison, 927 F.3d 310, 324-25 (3d Cir. 2020).
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A).
Parker v. Kelchner, 429 F.3d 58, 61 (3d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citations
Id. at 62 (citation omitted).
Id. at 63-64.
Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153, 159 (3d Cir. 2000).
Id. (citing Lambert v. Blackwell, 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997)).
See Commonwealth v. Cooper, No. CP-51-CR-0438741-1984 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Phila. Cnty.).
Case 4:21-cv-01533-MWB-MP Document 15 Filed 09/16/22 Page 4 of 5
Cooper also could have sought relief through a state petition for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6502. Cooper maintains that he
did file such a petition in 2021.17 He then argues that Pennsylvania courts will not
address a condition-of-confinement claim through a habeas petition, so seeking
such relief is futile and requires filing a federal habeas petition.
Cooper’s argument fails for two reasons. First, even though he has filed a
habeas petition in state court (and assuming the petition raises the same COVID19-related conditions-of-confinement claim), that petition has not been adjudicated
nor appealed to each level of the state courts.18 Second, the Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania has explicitly held that “habeas corpus is available to secure relief
from conditions constituting cruel and unusual punishment, even though the
detention itself is legal.”19 If, as Cooper claims, the Court of Common Pleas of
Philadelphia County incorrectly interprets his habeas corpus conditions-ofconfinement petition as one seeking relief from his prior murder conviction, that
issue must be resolved through a motion for reconsideration with the trial court or
an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, not by a federal habeas court.
See Doc. 13 at 2; Doc. 13-2 at 1; see also Cooper, No. CP-51-CR-0438741-1984 (Pa. Ct. Com.
Pl. Phila. Cnty.). Cooper neither provides a copy of this petition nor alleges its substance in
the instant Section 2254 petition.
See Cooper, No. CP-51-CR-0438741-1984 (Pa. Ct. Com. Pl. Phila. Cnty.).
Commonwealth ex rel. Bryant v. Hendrick, 280 A.2d 110, 113 (Pa. 1971); see Commonwealth
ex rel. Fortune v. Dragovich, 792 A.2d 1257, 1259 (Pa. 2002) (explaining that habeas corpus
may only be used to challenge “illegal confinement” or “conditions of confinement that
constitute cruel and unusual punishment”).
Case 4:21-cv-01533-MWB-MP Document 15 Filed 09/16/22 Page 5 of 5
Cooper, therefore, has failed to carry his burden to show that he has
exhausted his state-court remedies. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss without
prejudice Cooper’s Section 2254 petition.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Cooper’s petition for a writ
of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court will likewise deny a
certificate of appealability, as Cooper has failed to make a substantial showing of
the denial of a constitutional right.20 An appropriate Order follows.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
Chief United States District Judge
See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
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