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Logan v. Grace

April 4, 2007

NICK LOGAN, PETITIONER
v.
JAMES L. GRACE, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McCLURE United States District Judge

(Judge McClure)

MEMORANDUM

Background

Nick Logan ("Petitioner"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Huntingdon"), initiated this pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Named as Respondent is SCI-Huntingdon Superintendent James Grace. Service of the petition was previously ordered.

Petitioner pled guilty to charges of theft and receiving stolen property in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. He was sentenced in 1992 to a six (6) to twenty-four (24) year term of imprisonment. However, Logan's present action does not challenge the legality of either his guilty plea or the imposition of his sentence.

Rather, the petition challenges proceedings conducted in 2003 and 2005 by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("Parole Board") . Specifically, Petitioner claims that his equal protection right to participate in a "parole program" and "work release/furlough/ CC Center Program" was violated. Record document no.

1, ¶ 12(A) & (B). Logan states that in 2003, he submitted an application seeking permission to participate in a parole program. The petition initially claims that Logan's 2003 application was denied in violation of his equal protection rights because Unit Manager J.J. Ogershok and Counselor Joe Dinardi put incorrect information in his parole file. See id. at (A). During August, 2005, Petitioner avers that he was again refused admission to the parole program. This denial purportedly occurred because Unit Manager Keller and Counselor Robinson similarly placed inaccurate information in his institutional file.

Logan adds that Keller, Robinson and Parole Agent Linda Thompson "will not fairly or equally allow me to apply for work release/furlough/ CC Center transfer." Id. at (C). As relief, Petitioner requests that this Court direct correctional officials, presumably the Parole Board, to provide him with a full and fair opportunity to obtain parole and participate in a pre-release program.

Discussion

Respondent notes that Logan's maximum sentence does not expire until October 18, 2015. The response acknowledges that on August 13, 2003, the Parole Board issued a decision denying Petitioner release on parole. Logan was denied parole for a second time by decision dated August 9, 2005. The Respondent asserts that both denials were issued following interviews with the Petitioner and based upon the Parole Board's finding "that Logan's best interests did not justify or require him being paroled and the interests of the Commonwealth would be injured if he was paroled." Record document no. 7, ¶¶ 8 & 12. Other factors cited by the Parole Board included the Petitioner's lack of remorse, his unacceptable compliance with prescribed institutional programs, the recommendation by the Department of Corrections ("DOC"); and the nature and circumstances of the offenses committed.

The Respondent initially seeks dismissal of the petition on the grounds that Logan has failed to exhaust his available state court remedies. Specifically, it is argued that Petitioner's present claims must first be raised via a mandamus petition with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.

Respondent's second argument contends that Petitioner's claims regarding the 2003 denial of parole are time barred. It is also asserted that the petition fails to set forth a viable equal protection claim. The Respondent's final argument is that the claims that Logan was improperly denied permission for placement in work release, furlough or in a Community Corrections Center are only properly asserted in a civil rights action.

Exhaustion

Respondent initially maintains that Petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief because he failed to exhaust his available state court remedies. This argument is premised upon decisions which recognize that the Pennsylvania state courts are willing to entertain properly presented mandamus claims. See Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 489 (3d Cir. 2001); Voss v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 788 A.2d 1107 (2001). Therefore, because Logan ...


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