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Semulka v. Bureau of Prisons

July 31, 2008

EDWARD P. SEMULKA, PETITIONER
v.
BUREAU OF PRISONS AND WARDEN JERRY MARTINEZ, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

JUDGE SYLVIA H. RAMBO

MEMORANDUM

Petitioner Edward P. Semulka seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 because, he asserts, he has been wrongfully denied release to a halfway house from his current place of confinement, Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood, Low-Security ("Allenwood-Low"). The Warden*fn1 of Allenwood-Low has not released Semulka because Semulka has three outstanding warrants pending against him. According to the Warden's interpretation of Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") Program Statement 7310.04 ("P.S. 7310.04"), Semulka must resolve the warrants before he may be released to a halfway house. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

I. Background

A. Facts

The facts, drawn from the habeas petition and exhibits to Respondent's response, are as follows. Semulka was convicted of five counts of wire fraud in the Western District of Pennsylvania. He was sentenced to twenty-four months in prison with a three year term of supervised release. At the time of his sentencing, his Pre-Sentence Investigation Report showed at least three pending charges against him. Trial against him was pending in the Court of Common Pleas for Washington County, Pennsylvania, on two counts of writing bad checks. A warrant for the same crime was pending before the Magisterial District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Since April 17, 2007, Semulka has been designated to Allenwood-Low. In July 2007, Semulka and J.J. Reitz, his case manager, discussed the possibility of Semulka being released to a halfway house, or community corrections center ("CCC") before his ultimate release date. Reitz told Semulka that he could resolve the pending warrants against him from the halfway house. Semulka understood that he was to be released to the halfway house on June 3, 2008.

But on May 29, 2008, Semulka's new case manager, Ms. Bennage, informed him that he would not be permitted to go to the halfway house on June 3. She told him that the three open warrants precluded his release. Thereafter, Semulka filed an inmate request to a staff member, asking Warden Martinez to permit him to be released on June 3. The Warden denied Semulka's request on June 9. The Warden noted that Reitz had been mistaken in informing Semulka that he would be permitted to resolve his open warrants from the halfway house. In fact, P.S. 7310.04 ¶ (10)(f) provides that inmates "with unresolved pending charges, or detainers, which will likely lead to arrest, conviction, or confinement" "shall not ordinarily participate in CCC programs." The Warden stated that if Semulka was able to resolve the outstanding charges, and he had enough time remaining on his sentence, he would be considered for release to a halfway house. Semulka is scheduled to be released from federal custody on November 28, 2008.

Semulka also alleges in passing that he was retaliated against for having filed grievances with the prison and that he was denied access to necessary medication. (See generally Doc. 1 Ex. B.)

The court has no information as to whether any of Semulka's warrants have been resolved during the pendency of his habeas petition. This opinion will proceed as if Semulka has at least one warrant outstanding. The BOP online Inmate Locator shows that he remains confined at Allenwood-Low.

B. Procedural History

Semulka filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 7, 2008. Respondents filed their response to the petition on July 15, 2008. Semulka filed his reply on July 29, 2008. Accordingly, the petition is ripe for disposition.

II. Habeas Remedy

In Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held that a prisoner properly used a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge the execution of his sentence in a situation similar to Semulka's. 432 F.3d 235, 241-44 (3d Cir. 2005). The execution of a sentence may involve "such matters as the administration of parole, computation of a prisoner's sentence by prison officials, prison disciplinary actions, prison transfers, type of detention and prison conditions." Id. at 242 (quoting Jiminian v. Nash, 245 F.3d 144, 147 (2d Cir. 2001)). Most ...


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