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DEATH ROW PRISONERS v. RIDGE

October 17, 1996

DEATH ROW PRISONERS OF PENNSYLVANIA, including, MICHAEL RAINEY, JAMES SMITH, TYRONNE MOORE, GEORGE EDWARDS, SCOTT BLYSTONE and ROLAND STEELE, for themselves and all other Pennsylvania Death Row Prisoners who are similarly situated,
v.
THOMAS RIDGE, individually and in his official capacity as Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; THOMAS CORBETT, individually and in his official capacity as Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; MARTIN HORN, individually and in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Department of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and OTHER EMPLOYEES AND OFFICERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA WHOSE IDENTITIES ARE PRESENTLY NOT KNOWN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PADOVA

 Padova, J.

 October 17, 1996

 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 I. Facts & Procedural History

 II. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss -- Discussion

 
A. Legal Standard
 
B. Defendants' Procedural Defenses
 
1. 11th Amendment
 
2. Younger Abstention Doctrine
 
3. Case or Controversy
 
C. Defendants' Substantive Defenses
 
1. Redress Within the Federal Habeas
 
Statutory Framework
 
2. Claim Under § 1983
 
a. Violation of a Right: Knowledge of
 
Statute of Limitations
 
b. Persons Acting Under Color of State
 
Law
 
1. Governor Ridge
 
2. Commissioner Horn
 
3. Attorney General Corbett

 3. Plaintiffs Claim for Injunctive Relief

 
a. A Federal Right
 
b. Adequate Remedy at Law, i.e.,

 Through Habeas Corpus Litigation

 
c. Irreparable Harm
 
d. Equitable Relief Requested by

 Plaintiffs

 Plaintiffs, death row prisoners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, filed this action against sundry Commonwealth officials, seeking a declaratory judgement that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not an "opt-in" jurisdiction as that term is used and understood in the context of the Habeas Corpus provisions of the recently enacted Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996). The named Defendants in this suit are Governor Thomas Ridge, Attorney General Thomas Corbett, and Commissioner Martin Horn of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("Defendants"). *fn1" Each Defendant is sued in his official and individual capacity. Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs have filed an Amended Motion for Class Certification and a Motion for Subclass Certification.

 For the reasons that follow, I will deny Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs' Amended Motion for Class Certification is dealt with in a separate memorandum and order. Plaintiffs' Motion for Subclass Certification and the underlying request for the appointment of federal habeas counsel pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 848(q)(4)(B) will be addressed by the Court at a later date. I. FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 On April 24, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, enacting inter alia a number of changes to the federal habeas corpus statutes, 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 2241-2256 (West 1994). At the heart of this lawsuit is Chapter 154 of the new law, "Special Habeas Corpus Procedures in Capital Procedures." Chapter 154 applies inter alia to petitions brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254 by prisoners subject to a capital sentence in states that satisfy the provisions of 28 U.S.C.A. § 2261(b) and (c).

 Sections 2261(b) and (c) specifically provide:

 § 2261. Prisoners in State Custody subject to capital sentence; appointment of counsel; requirement of rule of court or statute; procedures for appointment. * * *

 
(b) This chapter is applicable if a State establishes by statute, rule of its court of last resort, or by another agency authorized by state law, a mechanism for the appointment, compensation, and payment of reasonable litigation expenses of competent counsel in State post-conviction proceedings brought by indigent prisoners whose capital convictions and sentences have been upheld on direct appeal to the court of last resort in the State or have otherwise become final for state law purposes. The rule of court or statute must provide standards for the competency for the appointment of such counsel.
 
(c) Any mechanism for the appointment, compensation and reimbursement of counsel as provided in subsection (b) must offer counsel to all State prisoners under capital sentence and must provide for the entry of an order by a court of record--
 
(1) appointing one or more counsels to represent the prisoner upon a finding that the prisoner is indigent and accepted the offer or is unable to competently decide whether to accept the offer;
 
(2) finding, after a hearing if necessary, that the prisoner rejected the offer of counsel and made the decision with an understanding of its legal consequences; or
 
(3) denying the appointment of counsel upon a finding that the prisoner is not indigent.

 28 U.S.C.A. § 2261(b) and (c).

 The law further provides that in states that fulfill the preceding requirements for providing competent counsel to capital prisoners in State post-conviction proceedings, capital prisoners must file petitions for federal habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254 within 180 days of the final State court affirmance of their conviction and sentence on direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2263(a). By contrast, a one-year statute of limitations applies to the filing of all other federal habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254(d)(1).

 Plaintiffs are six death row prisoners in Pennsylvania whose convictions and sentences have been affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Plaintiffs argue that Pennsylvania does not meet Chapter 154's requirements for the appointment of competent counsel and, therefore, the one-year statute of limitations, as opposed to Chapter 154's 180-day limitations period, is applicable to the filing of federal habeas petitions by Pennsylvania capital prisoners. Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that Pennsylvania has enacted no statewide rule or statute providing for either the appointment and funding of counsel for state post-conviction or setting forth standards for the competency of such counsel.

 Instead of a centralized, state-funded system for the appointment of counsel, Pennsylvania permits individual counties to assign counsel, without setting statewide standards for qualifications or providing state funding for the compensation of these attorneys. The counties, in turn, fail to provide adequate funding for post-conviction counsel and for related defense services such as experts or case investigators. Because Plaintiffs contend that Pennsylvania does not comply with the standards articulated in 28 U.S.C.A. § 2261(b) and (c), they seek certain declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent Chapter 154's 180-day statute of limitations from being applied to federal habeas petitions filed by all Pennsylvania capital prisoners.

 Plaintiffs specifically seek the following relief: (1) a declaratory judgment that Pennsylvania does not meet the appointment of counsel requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C.A. § 2261 (b) and (c); *fn2" (2) an order enjoining Defendants from asserting in any state or federal proceeding that the Commonwealth has complied with the provisions of § 2261 (b) and (c), and therefore that the 180-day statute of limitations is applicable, unless and until such compliance is demonstrated to this Court; (3) an order tolling the statute of limitations for the filing of a federal habeas petition by any Pennsylvania capital prisoner pending the outcome of this case; (4) an injunction, enjoining Defendants Ridge and Horn from issuing death warrants and carrying out already-scheduled executions during the pendency of this litigation; (5) certification of a class consisting of all present and future prisoners incarcerated in Pennsylvania under a death sentence imposed by a Pennsylvania court; (6) the certification of a subclass to seek the appointment of federal habeas corpus counsel pursuant to 21 U.S.C.A § 848(q); and (7) Plaintiffs' costs and attorney fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C.A. § 1915 (West 1994) and 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988 (West 1994).

 II. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS -- DISCUSSION

 A. Legal Standard

 A claim may be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle him to relief. ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994). The reviewing court must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of the allegations as true. Id. ; see also Rocks v. Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989) (in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court must "accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party").

 B. Defendants' Procedural ...


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