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06/12/97 KENNETH EDMUNSON v. MARTIN HORN

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


June 12, 1997

KENNETH EDMUNSON, A/K/A, KENNETH AUDAIN; BS 9420, PETITIONER
v.
MARTIN HORN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS, COMMISSIONER PA. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS; THOMAS ENGLISH, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF SCI-GREENSBURG; MARK E. GUZZI, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ASSISTANT CHIEF COUNSEL, DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS; NICHOLAS P. MULLER, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHAIRMAN PA. BOARD OF PAROLE & PROBATION; PA. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, ITS AGENTS AND ALL PERSONS ACTING IN CONCERT OR PARTICIPATION WITH THEM, RESPONDENTS

Before: Honorable Joseph T. Doyle, Judge, Honorable Dan Pellegrini, Judge, Honorable Samuel L. Rodgers, Senior Judge. Opinion BY Senior Judge Rodgers.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rodgers

ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

OPINION BY

SENIOR JUDGE RODGERS

FILED: June 12, 1997

Presently before this Court are the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer filed by Martin Horn, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Thomas English, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg (SCI Greensburg), Mark E. Guzzi, Assistant Chief Counsel for the Department of Corrections and Nicholas Muller, Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (collectively referred to as Respondents) in response to a pro se petition for review filed by Kenneth Edmunson a/k/a Kenneth Audain (Petitioner) seeking a declaratory injunction and/or mandamus relief. We hereby grant Respondents' demurrer.

Petitioner, an inmate at SCI Greensburg, commenced the instant action on September 3, 1996 by filing a petition for review in this Court's original jurisdiction. The petition for review asserts that in retaliation for providing fellow inmates with legal assistance, officials at SCI Greensburg initiated an investigation against Petitioner which resulted in a search of his cell and confiscation of certain contraband. Petitioner was charged with misconduct and appeared at a hearing pursuant to SCI Greensburg's intra-prison disciplinary procedures. *fn1 Petitioner was "convicted" of misconduct and he subsequently appealed to the institution's PRC, the Superintendent of SCI Greensburg and finally, to the CORC. The CORC ultimately denied Petitioner's appeal, noting that the hearing examiner had clearly established by a preponderance of the evidence that Petitioner did not have authorization to possess the contraband items in his cell. Petitioner then commenced the instant action to which Respondents have demurred. *fn2

Respondents' demurrer avers that Petitioner's declaratory judgment action is "a thinly disguised appeal of the decision on the misconduct conviction" (Petitioner's brief at page 5) and that pursuant to this Court's holding in Ricketts, he is not entitled to review by this Court. In Ricketts, the petitioner implicitly argued that a decision by the CORC is a final adjudication by an administrative agency and thus appealable. The Ricketts court stressed that the operation of correctional facilities is peculiarly within the province of the legislative and executive branches of the government and not the judicial branch. Moreover, the Ricketts court noted, it is the function of the CORC panel to review an internal disciplinary sentence for an inmate already confined and to transfer that inmate to a more restrictive part of the prison. The court concluded that these functions were simply not the equivalent of an action by an administrative agency.

Unlike the petitioner in Ricketts, Petitioner in the present action has not sought a direct appeal of the decision of the CORC. Instead, Petitioner has sought to have this Court review the outcome of the intra-prison disciplinary proceedings under the guise of an action brought under this Court's original jurisdiction. A review of Petitioner's petition for review reflects that the averments of the petition all relate to the alleged misconduct and the disciplinary proceedings. *fn3 Regardless of whether the action was brought as a direct appeal or in this Court's original jurisdiction, it is clear that Petitioner now seeks to have this Court review his misconduct determination. Because we do not have jurisdiction over determinations of this kind, Ricketts, we must grant Respondents' preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer. *fn4

Accordingly, Petitioner's petition for review is dismissed.

SAMUEL L. RODGERS, Senior Judge

ORDER

NOW, June 12, 1997, upon consideration of Respondents' preliminary objections to Petitioner's petition, said preliminary objections are granted, and the Petitioner's petition for review and Petitioner's cross motion for summary relief are dismissed.

SAMUEL L. RODGERS, Senior Judge


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