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Harris v. Rendell

October 19, 2009

LAVERNE HARRIS; ELIZABETH CLARK; GARY CHRISTOPHER; DERRICK BOSTIC, PETITIONERS
v.
EDWARD G. RENDELL, GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PROBATION AND PAROLE AND PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, President Judge

ORDER

AND NOW, this 19th day of October, 2009, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the above-captioned opinion filed August 5, 2009, shall be designated OPINION rather than MEMORANDUM OPINION and it shall be reported.

OPINION

Argued: December 8, 2008

FILED: August 5, 2009

Laverne Harris, Elizabeth Clark, Gary Christopher and Derrick Bostic (collectively, Petitioners), inmates in state correctional institutions, filed a motion for peremptory judgment and summary relief in their petition for review filed against Governor Edward G. Rendell, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Board) and the Department of Corrections (Department) (collectively, Respondents). Respondents also have filed an application for summary relief and a suggestion of mootness. For the reasons stated below, the petition for review is dismissed as moot.*fn1

The Board granted Petitioners parole or reparole during the period from May through September 18, 2008. On October 21, 2008, Petitioners filed a petition for review in original jurisdiction of this court, seeking mandamus relief and a declaratory judgment against Respondents. Petitioners alleged that on September 29, 2008, Governor Rendell imposed a moratorium on the release of inmates granted parole and reparole pending an independent review of the Commonwealth's parole system and that they would have been released but for the Governor's moratorium.

To support their allegations, Petitioners attached to the petition for review a press release issued by the Office of the Governor on September 29, 2008. The press release, titled "Gov. Rendell Asks Corrections Department to Suspend Releases Pending Review of Corrections, Parole Systems," stated:

Governor Edward G. Rendell today called on the Department of Corrections to suspend the release of all offenders who have been recommended for parole pending . a review by Dr. John Goldkamp, chair of Temple University's Department of Criminal Justice.

In a letter sent today, Governor Rendell requested that Goldkamp conduct an independent review of the processes by which the Department of Corrections prepares violent offenders for release, the Board of Probation and Parole determines whether to parole a violent offender, and how both entities supervise parolees after release.

"Last week, Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick McDonald was tragically murdered by a paroled offender, but it is even more tragic that this was the second instance within the last four months of a parolee shooting a Philadelphia police officer," wrote Governor Rendell .. "Heartbreaking losses such as these have shed light on the need to thoroughly review the process by which Pennsylvania paroles violent offenders. Therefore, I am asking you to review the way in which these two cases were managed by the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole in order to minimize the likelihood that these kinds of scenarios will be repeated."

Goldkamp's review will begin immediately and the Governor added that he has directed the department and the board to cooperate fully with the review.

Governor Rendell requested that the review be thorough, complete and expedited to the fullest extent possible. If the review yields any measures that demand prompt action, the Governor requested that ...


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