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FURMAN v. MARTINEZ

June 28, 2005.

BRIAN FURMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN MARTINEZ, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction.

Brian Furman, formerly*fn1 an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Cresson, Pennsylvania, commenced this action with a pro se civil rights complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are Benjamin Martinez ("Martinez"), Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP"), and several defendants identified only as "John Does".*fn2 Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated the Ex Post Facto clause of the United States Constitution by applying improper parole standards to his parole applications. For relief he seeks declaratory judgment, compensatory damages (for loss of wages), punitive damages, costs of suit, and all other appropriate relief. Pending before the Court are: (1) Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 37); (2) Martinez' motion to amend his answer to the complaint (Doc. 43) to add affirmative defenses; (3) Martinez' cross motion for summary judgment (Doc. 45); (4) Plaintiff's motion to amend/correct complaint (Doc. 50) to identify John Doe defendants; and (5) Plaintiff's motion to amend (Doc. 54) his prior motion to amend, to comply with Middle District Local Rule 15.1. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment will be denied, Martinez' cross motion for summary judgment will be granted, the complaint will be dismissed as to the remaining defendants under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), and the motions to amend will be denied as moot.

  II. Background.

  The facts are undisputed. On December 11, 1987, Plaintiff pled guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, terroristic threats, false imprisonment, and indecent assault, and he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of eight (8) to twenty-one (21) years. Plaintiff's minimum sentence date was March 13, 1995, and his maximum sentence date was March 13, 2008. Although Plaintiff was reviewed for and denied parole a total of eight (8) times, in March, 2004 Plaintiff was paroled by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP") to a Community Corrections Center. Plaintiff is challenging his five (5) most recent parole denials, claiming that the PBPP applied amended parole standards to his parole applications in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause. Martinez claims that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the applicable statute of limitations as it relates to the parole denials prior to October 9, 2001, and Plaintiff's claim is without merit as it relates to the remaining parole denials. III. Discussion.

  A. Statute of Limitations.

  In reviewing the applicability of the statute of limitations to an action filed pursuant to § 1983, a federal court must apply the appropriate state statute of limitations which governs personal injury actions. North Star Steel Co. v. Thomas, 515 U.S. 29, 34 (1995); Kingvision Pay-Per-View, Corp., Ltd. v. 898 Belmont, Inc., 366 F.3d 217, 220 (3d Cir. 2004). Pennsylvania's applicable personal injury statute of limitations is two years. See 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(7); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 190 (3d Cir. 1993). The statute of limitations "begins to run from the time when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the Section 1983 action." Gentry v. Resolution Trust Corp., 937 F.2d 899, 919 (3d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).

  Plaintiff is challenging parole denials entered on June 23, 1998 (Doc. 1, Ex. E), July 6, 1999 (Id., Ex. G), March 12, 2001 (Id., Ex. I), March 22, 2002 (Id., Ex. T), and April 30, 2003 (Id., Ex. U). However, Plaintiff did not file his complaint until October 9, 2003, approximately five (5) years after the first challenged review. Consequently, Plaintiff's claims related to the first three parole reviews are barred by Pennsylvania's applicable two-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions, and the Court will limit review to the last two (2) parole denials.

  B. Summary Judgment Standard

  Both Plaintiff and Martinez have filed motions for summary judgment. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment may be entered only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The parties do not dispute the facts, and the dispute resolves to a legal interpretation of the parole decisions.

  Moreover, Rule 56 provides that the adverse party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations contained in the pleadings. Rather, the adverse party must show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). When addressing a summary judgment motion, the inquiry focuses on "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52 (emphasis added). It is also well-settled that pro se complaints should be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

  C. Ex Post Facto Claim

  As previously stated, remaining at issue are Plaintiff's parole denials of March 22, 2002 (Doc. 1, Ex. T) and April 30, 2003 (Id., Ex. U). Plaintiff challenges each on the grounds that they violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. Prior to 1996, the PBPP's internal policies required it to weigh the inmate's rehabilitation and liberty interest with the interest of public safety in parole evaluations.*fn3 Mickens-Thomas v. Vaughn, 321 F.3d 374, 378 (3d Cir. 2003). Specifically, the Court noted "that the [PBPP's] Manual of Operations and Procedures recognized that `[p]robation and parole services must consider that offenders can change their behavior patterns when desirous, capable, and given the opportunity, help, dignity, and respect they deserve as human beings.'" Id. (emphasis added). In December 1996, the Pennsylvania Legislature added new language to the "aspirational introductory provision" of the parole statute, requiring that the "public safety must be considered first and foremost in the [PBPP's] execution of its mission." Id. at 377 (internal quotation omitted).

  Plaintiff correctly notes that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that the PBPP's initial interpretation of the 1996 amendments to the Pennsylvania parole statute, found at 61 P.S. § 331.1, violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. Id. at 393. In Mickens-Thomas, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals addressed a habeas corpus petition filed by a prisoner whose life sentence had been commuted to a term of years with parole eligibility. The petitioner claimed that application of revised parole standards violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, and he was entitled to review under the standards in place at the time of conviction. The Court concluded that the revised Parole Board policy, "although partly discretionary, is still subject to ex post facto analysis when there are sufficiently discernable criteria to suggest to a reviewing body that the new retroactive policies are being applied against the offender's interest." Id. at 386. "An adverse change in one's prospects for release disadvantages a prisoner just as surely as an upward change in the minimum duration of sentence." Id. at 392. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that retroactive ...


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