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Wright v. Cuyler

decided as amended july 8 1980.: June 30, 1980.

WRIGHT, THOMAS, APPELLANT
v.
CUYLER, JULIUS T., ET AL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD, APPELLEE (D.C. CIVIL NO. 78-1520) WRIGHT, THOMAS, APPELLANT V. ROBINSON, WILLIAM B., COMMISSIONER OF THE BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; CUYLER, JULIUS T., SUPERINTENDENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATEFORD, PA.; SIMS, DANIEL T., DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT OF TREATMENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD, PA.; REID, LAWRENCE, DIRECTOR OF TREATMENT OF THE STATE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION AT GRATERFORD, PA., APPELLEES (D.C. CIVIL NO. 78-2301)



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Before Aldisert, Weis and Garth, Circuit Judges.

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

These are two consolidated appeals taken by Thomas Wright from the district court's dismissal of his two civil rights actions. The district court determined that Wright, a prisoner, was attempting to challenge the duration of his confinement, and was therefore required, under Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 93 S. Ct. 1827, 36 L. Ed. 2d 439 (1973), to exhaust state remedies. We reverse.

I.

Wright is a prisoner in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute at Graterford. He applied in June 1977 for admission to the home furlough program*fn1 but was rejected. According to Wright, he was told initially, contrary to fact, that he was not accepted for prerelease furlough because he had not yet served the necessary time on his sentence. App. at 54.*fn2 Wright applied again in August 1977, and again his application was denied. This time he was told that the prison authorities believed that he would still be a security risk if released on furlough, and that he should reapply after he had served another year in confinement. Id. at 55.

Wright thereupon filed two actions in district court, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. The two actions were consolidated.*fn3 Wright alleged that he was denied due process because his application for home furlough was arbitrarily and capriciously denied. Named as defendants were Julius Cuyler, the Graterford superintendent; Daniel Sims, the deputy superintendent; Lawrence Reid, the Graterford director of treatment; and William B. Robinson, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corrections. Wright sought compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief to require the standards for admission to the home furlough program to be applied fairly to him, to require his admission to the program, and to prevent retaliation against him. The defendants moved to dismiss his complaints or in the alternative for summary judgment. On January 3, 1979, the district court dismissed Wright's equitable claims without prejudice to Wright's reasserting them in a petition for habeas corpus following the exhaustion of available state remedies, and similarly dismissed Wright's damages claims without prejudice to a later section 1983 action following the exhaustion of state remedies. This appeal followed.

II.

The district court did not write any opinion setting forth its reasons for dismissing Wright's actions. However, the basis for the district court's disposition can be gleaned from the case citations appearing in its January 3, 1979 order from which appeal is taken.*fn4 The district court apparently based its dismissals on its conclusion that Wright, by seeking to secure admission to the home furlough program, was thereby affecting or attempting to reduce the duration of his confinement. Citing the rule announced in Preiser, therefore, the district court held that Wright must exhaust state remedies before bringing any federal action. We disagree.

The Supreme Court held in Preiser that:

when a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of his physical imprisonment, and the relief he seeks is a determination that he is entitled to immediate release or a speedier release from that imprisonment, his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus.

411 U.S. at 500, 93 S. Ct. at 184. The program into which Rodriguez was denied entry, which denial the Court held could not be challenged directly under section 1983, was described as follows:

(A) prisoner serving an indeterminate sentence may elect to participate in a conditional-release program by which he may earn up to 10 days per month good-behavior-time credit toward reduction of the maximum term of his sentence. Rodriguez elected to participate in this program. Optimally, such a prisoner may be released on parole after having served approximately two-thirds of his maximum sentence (20 days out of every 30); but accrued good-behavior credits so earned may at any time be withdrawn, in whole or in part, for bad behavior or for violation of the institutional rules.

411 U.S. at 477-78, 93 S. Ct. at 1830 (citation omitted). Thus Preiser involved a program that would enable the prisoner to be granted early parole and to be released from prison before the end of his sentence.

The Court distinguished cases that had allowed direct actions under section 1983 challenging ...


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