United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 17, 2005.
RALPH I. WILLIAMS Petitioner,
PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PROBATION & PAROLE, RAYMOND COLLERAN, Superintendent, SCI-Waymart, and PA STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL Respondents.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES McCLURE JR., District Judge
On or about January 19, 2005, petitioner Ralph I. Williams, an
inmate at SCI-Waymart, filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Williams's petition arises
from the revocation of his parole for technical violations, a
process which required Williams to be returned from Florida to
Pennsylvania. Williams asserts that the Pennsylvania Board of
Probation and Parole ("Board") violated his due process rights
for several reasons.*fn1 On March 8, 2005, respondents filed their answer and brief in opposition to
the petition asserting, inter alia, that Williams failed to
exhaust his state court remedies. For the following reasons we
will dismiss Williams's petition for failure to exhaust his
available state court remedies and because his claims are now
I. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
The court may "entertain an application for a writ of habeas
corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment
of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A petition filed under § 2254 must
be timely filed under the stringent standards set forth in the
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA),
Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (Apr. 24, 1996). See
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Additionally, we may only reach the merits of a petitioner's federal claims if each claim in his
petition (1) has been exhausted in the state courts, and (2) is
not procedurally defaulted. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A);
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722
, 731-32 (1991); Slutzker v.
Johnson, 393 F.3d 373
, 379-81 (3d Cir. 2004). Exhaustion is
required because it gives the state the "opportunity to pass upon
and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights."
Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27
, 29 (2004) (quoting Duncan v.
Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995) (per curiam)) (internal
quotations and additional citations omitted). In order to provide
the state with the opportunity to address the prisoner's federal
claims, a state prisoner must "`fairly present' his claim in each
appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with
powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to
the federal nature of the claim. Id. (citing Duncan,
513 U.S. at 365-66.)
II. RELEVANT FACTS
On February 4, 2004, shortly after the Pennsylvania Board of
Probation and Parole recommitted Williams to a state correctional
institution as a technical parole violator, Williams filed a
Petition for a Writ of Mandamus directly to the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court seeking to invoke the Court's original
jurisdiction. (Rec. Doc. No. 12-3, Ex. 2.) On February 11, 2004,
the Board of Probation and Parole responded to the Petition for
Writ of Mandamus and noted that there was no basis for Williams to bypass the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
with his Petition and to proceed to the Supreme Court. (Rec. Doc.
No. 12-4, Ex. 3.) On July 21, 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court denied the Petition for Writ of Mandamus without opinion.
Williams v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, No. 33 MM
2004, slip op. (Pa. July 21, 2004) (per curiam) (order granting
request for leave to file original process and denying petition
for writ of mandamus); see also (Rec. Doc. No. 12-5, Ex. 4).
Williams never filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, or a
petition for review of the administrative decision, contesting
the issues raised in this action before the Pennsylvania
Commonwealth Court.*fn2 III. FAILURE TO EXHAUST STATE REMEDIES
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Administrative Agency Law
provided Williams with an avenue to exhaust his allegations that
the Board of Probation and Parole violated his constitutional
rights when they revoked his parole by filing a petition for
review. 2 Pa. C.S.A. §§ 702, 704 (providing that court conducting
review of an agency decision shall not affirm an administrative
decision if it finds that the "adjudication is in violation of
the constitutional rights of the appellant"),
42 Pa. C.S.A. § 763(a) (conveying Commonwealth Court with exclusive jurisdiction
over "appeals from final orders of government agencies"); see,
e.g., Smalls v. Pa. Bd. Of Probation & Parole, 823 A.2d 274
(Pa.Commw.Ct. 2003). Before pursuing judicial review of the
Board's decision, petitioner should have followed the
instructions in the Board's notice of decision, and filed an
administrative appeal with the Board governed by 37 Pennsylvania
Code Section 73. In relevant part, section 73 of the Pennsylvania
§ 73.1. Appeals and petitions for administrative
(1) An interested party, by counsel unless
unrepresented, may appeal a revocation decision.
Appeals shall be received at the Board's Central
Office within 30 days of the mailing date of the
Board's order. When a timely appeal of a revocation decision has been filed, the
revocation decision will not be deemed final for
purpose of appeal to a court until the Board has
mailed its decision on the appeal. . . .
(2) The scope of review of an appeal will be limited
to whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence, an error of law has been committed or there
has been a violation of constitutional law.
. . .
(4) Second or subsequent appeals and appeals which
are out of time under these rules will not be
(b) Petitions for administrative review.
(1) A parolee, by counsel unless unrepresented, may
petition for administrative review under this
subsection of determinations relating to revocation
decisions which are not otherwise appealable under
subsection (a). Petitions for administrative review
shall be received at the Board's Central Office
within 30 days of the mailing date of the Board's
determination. When a timely petition has been filed,
the determination will not be deemed final for
purposes of appeal to a court until the Board has
mailed its response to the petition for
administrative review. . . .
(3) Second or subsequent petitions for administrative
review and petitions for administrative review which
are out of time under this part will not be received.
37 Pa. Code § 73.1.
Williams has procedurally defaulted his claim as he failed to
file an administrative appeal with the Board, and a subsequent
petition for review with the Commonwealth court. Instead,
Williams incorrectly filed a writ of mandamus with the Supreme
Court and bypassed the appropriate state avenues for relief.
Petitioner's reliance on DeFoy v. McCullough, 393 F.3d 439
(3d Cir. 2005), is inapposite. In DeFoy, the Third Circuit held that a
Pennsylvania state prisoner challenging the denial of parole on
constitutional grounds other than the Ex Post Facto Clause need
not file a state petition for a writ of mandamus in order to
satisfy the dictates of exhaustion before seeking federal habeas
relief. DeFoy, 393 F.3d at 444. This was because under
Pennsylvania law mandamus is not available for state prisoners
seeking to challenge the denial of their parole on constitutional
grounds other than the Ex Post Facto Clause. Id. at 445. The
facts of the instant case are different petitioner is
challenging the revocation of his parole, not the denial of his
parole. As indicated above, the Pennsylvania Code and
Pennsylvania's Administrative Agency Law provide both
administrative and judicial avenues for Williams to present his
constitutional grievances, avenues which Williams did not
exhaust. Williams's brief and petition cite to numerous cases in
which there has been judicial review by the Commonwealth Court of
a Board's decision. These cases all belie Williams's assertion
that there is no relief available to state prisoners asserting
claims similar to his.
Similarly, Williams's claims are procedurally defaulted because
he failed to file an administrative appeal within thirty days of
the Board's notice of decision, and likewise failed to file a
petition for review of the administrative decision with the
Commonwealth Court. NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Williams's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 is dismissed, with prejudice. (Rec. Doc. No. 1.)
His petition is dismissed for failure to exhaust the remedies
available in the state courts and because his claims are now
2. No basis exists for a certificate of appealability. See
28 U.S.C. § 2253.
3. The clerk is directed to close the case file.
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