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Holman v. Hilton

July 6, 1983

CHARLES C. HOLMAN, JR., APPELLEE
v.
GARY J. HILTON, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, TRENTON, ROBERT HATRAK, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, RAHWAY, DONALD TUCKER, ASSISTANT TO THE SUPERINTENDENT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, TRENTON, JOSEPH CALL, CHAIRMAN OF INSTITUTIONAL CLASSIFICATION COMMITTEE, CAPTAIN A. RICHARDSON, CAPTAIN AT NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, TRENTON, CAPTAIN R. CURRAN, CAPTAIN AT NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, RAHWAY, AND LIEUTENANT WILLAMS, LT., AT NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, TRENTON, (D.C. CIVIL NO. 77-2067) APPELLANTS; CHARLES C. HOLMAN, APPELLEE V. GARY J. HILTON, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON AT TRENTON, ALAN R. HOFFMAN, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON AT TRENTON, WILLIAM BAUM, INVESTIGATIONS OFFICER, NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE, LAWRENCE ASHTON, LIEUTENANT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON, JAMES WILLIAMS, LIEUTENANT, NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON AT TRENTON, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES (D.C. CIVIL NO. 79-2452) GARY J. HILTON, ALAN R. HOFFMAN, WILLIAM BAUM, LAWRENCE ASHTON AND JAMES WILLIAMS, APPELLANTS IN D.C. CIVIL NO. 79-2452



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY.

Hunter, Higginbotham, Circuit Judges, and Stapleton,*fn* District Judge.

Author: Hunter

Opinion OF THE COURT

HUNTER, Circuit Judge:

1. Gary J. Hilton, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Prison at Trenton, and other New Jersey State Prison employees, individually and in their official capacities (hereinafter cited as "defendants" or the "State"), appeal from an interlocutory order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey granting Charles Holman's motion for summary judgment. Holman had moved for summary judgment claiming that N.J. Stat. Ann. § 59:5-3 (West 1982) violated the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Because we conclude that section 59:5-3 deprives Holman of his statutorily created property rights without due process of law, we affirm.

I

2. Charles Holman was convicted of murder in the state courts of New Jersey in 1970 and sentenced to a life term of imprisonment. From the time of his conviction until December, 1981, he was incarcerated in various institutions in the New Jersey state prison system.

3. On August 2, 1976, while an inmate at Trenton State Prison, Holman filed a complaint in replevin in the Mercer County Court. Naming seven defendants Holman sought the return of certain items of impounded personal property or, alternatively, the payment of damages of $613. Upon motion by the State, the Mercer County Court dismissed Holman's complaint on the basis of its conclusion that Holman's action was barred by section 59:5-3.*fn1

4. In 1978 and 1979, Holman submitted a variety of claims for items of personal property which had been allegedly destroyed in a fire at Trenton State Prison. Holman had left those items behind when he had been transferred to Rahway State Prison. Holman first unsuccessfully petitioned Gary Hilton, the Superintendent of Trenton State Prison, for compensation. Holman then filed a claim, on a form entitled "Trenton State Prison Claim for Damage, Lost, or Destroyed Property," with the Internal Affairs Unit, the prison entity authorized to receive and consider such claims. On March 15, 1979, an officer of the prison issued a written determination that:

Due too [sic] Holmans [sic] prior knowledge of the impending transfer to Rahway, and his refusal to comply with this order, to include the packing of his personal property. The Institution will not assume the responsibility for the items alleged to be lost.

Letter from Walter C. Wise, an employee of the Internal Affairs Unit at Trenton State Prison.

5. On August 13, 1979, Holman commenced his pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Supp. IV 1980). Holman contended that section 59:5-3, and the actions of the defendants, caused him to be deprived of his property without due process of law. In his complaint Holman sought a declaratory judgment holding section 59:5-3 unconstitutional, compensatory and punitive damages for the items of personal property allegedly lost, and injunctive relief.

6. By letter to the district court dated December 18, 1981, Holman moved for summary judgment on the issue of the constitutionality of section 59:5-3. By opinion filed on July 9, 1982, the district court ruled that section 59:5-3 violates the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. Holman v. Hilton, 542 F. Supp. 913 (D.N.J. 1982). On August 5, 1982, the district court issued orders to that effect. On August 13, 1982, defendants petitioned for permission to appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) (1976) and Fed. R. App. P. 5. The petition was ...


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