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M. A. JAMAL v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/09/88)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: November 9, 1988.

M. A. JAMAL, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT

Original Jurisdiction in the case of M. A. Jamal v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Corrections.

COUNSEL

M. A. Jamal, petitioner, for himself.

Janice L. Anderson, Deputy Attorney General, with her, John G. Knorr, III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief Litigation Section, and LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondent.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr. Judge MacPhail did not participate in the decision in this case.

Author: Crumlish

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 43]

The Department of Corrections (Department) preliminarily objects to Mumia Abu Jamal's (Jamal) petition for review.

We discern the following from Jamal's pro se petition. The Department's Publications Review Committee disapproved his receipt of a weekly newspaper, The Revolutionary Worker, during his incarceration at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon. Jamal further avers that he exhausted his administrative remedy before the Department's Central Office Review Committee, which upheld the decision.

Jamal's petition does not challenge the substantive bases for the Department's decision. Rather, Jamal avers only that the Department failed to render its decision within the time prescribed in a Bureau of Corrections Administrative Directive, BC-ADM 814, 37 Pa. Code § 93.5(c), which provides that the Department "will rule on publications within 10 days after the material is received." The petition further sets forth a general averment that the Department's actions violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution's guarantees

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 44]

    of "free communication of thoughts and opinions," Pa. Const. art. I, § 7, and protection from discrimination, Pa. Const. art. I, § 26. Finally, the petition avers that the Department's administrative appeal bodies routinely ignore their procedural rules.

Jamal requests, inter alia, the following relief: (a) reversal of the Department's decision and release of the newspapers; (b) mandamus directing the Department to obey its rules and directives; (c) a declaration that the Department violated its directives, statutes and constitutional provisions; (d) an injunction prohibiting future violations; and (e) restoration of the fair market value of the prohibited materials.

The Department's preliminary objections contend that this Court erred in construing the petition as addressed to our original jurisdiction*fn1 because it is actually an appeal of the Department's decision. The Department alternatively contends that the petition fails to state a cognizable cause of action.*fn2

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 45]

As to the jurisdictional question, we believe that the substance of the allegations and the nature of the relief requested should dictate whether the petition seeks to invoke appellate or original jurisdiction. See Bronson v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 491 Pa. 549, 421 A.2d 1021 (1980). Jamal maintains in his pro se brief that his petition does not seek to "appeal" any Department decision. As we understand his petition, Jamal requests an injunction and mandamus directing the Department to obey its rules and directives in the future and to release the publications because the Department failed to render its decision within the prescribed time period. Therefore, we conclude that Jamal's petition was properly identified as one addressed to our original jurisdiction.

We further conclude that Jamal has failed to state a claim in our original jurisdiction. The Department has already performed the ministerial duty of acting on Jamal's request for the publications, albeit not within ten days. Once an agency has performed the duty to make a discretionary decision, a dissatisfied party may not seek to compel a different result through mandamus. Sever v. Department of Environmental Resources, 100 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 217, 225, 514 A.2d 656, 660 (1986).

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 46]

We likewise find no basis for the requested injunctive relief to forestall potential future violations of directives by the Department. Injunctive relief is not available to eliminate a possible remote future injury or invasion of rights. Raitport v. Provident National Bank, 451 F. Supp. 522 (E.D. Pa. 1978); Curll v. Dairymen's Cooperative Sales Association, 389 Pa. 216, 132 A.2d 271 (1957).

[ 121 Pa. Commw. Page 4]

We also discern no basis for Jamal's claim for a declaratory judgment that the Department violated "its Directives, State Statute, and Federal/State Constitutional Provisions." Petition for Review, Page 4. The petition reveals no indication of how declaratory relief will terminate a controversy or resolve any uncertainty. See Mueller v. Pennsylvania State Police Headquarters, 110 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 265, 532 A.2d 900 (1987).

Finally, because Jamal has failed to state a claim, there is no jurisdictional basis to order restoration of the publications' monetary value.

Accordingly, we sustain the Department's preliminary objection and dismiss the petition for review.

Order

The respondent's preliminary objection regarding jurisdiction is overruled and its preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer is sustained. The petition for review is dismissed.

Judge MacPhail did not participate in the decision in this case.


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