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Cravener v. Cameron

January 15, 2010

ROBERT T. CRAVENER, PETITIONER,
v.
KENNETH CAMERON, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, AND THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Robert Cravener ("Petitioner"), a state prisoner, assigned the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Identification Number BJ-9887, is currently serving a combined sentence of incarceration of 10 to 20 years for Kidnapping (a conviction obtained in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas) and for Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Indecent Assault, Criminal Attempt and Corruption of Minors (convictions obtained in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas). Petitioner has filed a Section 2254 petition seeking not to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement but, rather, seeking to challenge the requirement that he register as a sex offender and be subject to Pennsylvania's Megan's Law.*fn1 However, as the Respondents point out, because he cannot challenge the requirements that he register as a sex offender and/or challenge the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania's Megan's Law via a habeas petition but must file a civil rights action, the petition will be dismissed as raising a claim which is not cognizable in habeas.

Petitioner was sentenced on December 17, 1990, in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, for Kidnapping. In the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, he then pleaded guilty on February 13, 1991, to charges of Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Indecent Assault, Criminal Attempt and Corruption of Minors. At the time of the convictions and sentencing, Petitioner was not required to register as a sex offender or report to the authorities as Megan's Law now requires because Pennsylvania's first Megan's Law was not enacted until October 24, 1995.*fn2

Petitioner alleges in his habeas petition that he was not made aware by the Department of Corrections of the fact that he was subject to Megan's Law until September 19, 2008. Dkt. [3] at 5, ¶ 12. In the habeas petition, he raised the following issues:

GROUND ONE: Dept. Of Corrections violates petitioner[']s rights under U.S. Constitution Fifth Amendment -- Due Process of Law.... Dept. of Corrections is attempting to use it's own authority to extent [sic] the petitioners sentence to enclude [sic] megan's law registration which was "not" part of the petitioner's sentence agreed upon on 2-13-91

[Dkt. [3] at 5]

GROUND TWO: Dept. of Corrections violates petitioner[']s constitutional rights under Eighth Amendment -- Double Jeopardy.... By forcing Petitioner to comply with Megan's law registration by way of threat, DOC is attempting to sentence petitioner a second time in addition to the sentence imposed by the [State Courts].

[Id., at 7]

GROUND THREE: Dept. Of Corrections is in error by attempting to further punish petitioner beyond the sentence imposed on 2-13-91.

[Id., at 8]

GROUND FOUR: Beyond the 2 to 4 yrs sentence imposed on 2-13-91 no other penalties were entered [by the State Court].

Id., at 10. By way of relief, Petitioner seeks to have this Court "issue an order declairing [sic] Megan's Law Registration violates petitioner[']s constitutional rights and direct the Dept. Of Corrections cease and desist its efforts." Dkt. [3] at 14. The Respondents filed an answer, pointing out that habeas is not the proper vehicle by which to bring this challenge and/or obtain such relief because the challenge would not result in a speedier release from custody or any release from his present custody, essentially. Dkt. [6]. The Respondents asserted that this challenge is more properly brought as a Section 1983 civil rights action. Petitioner did not file a traverse.

All currently interested parties have consented to have the Magistrate Judge exercise plenary jurisdiction and enter final judgment. Dkt. [9] (Attorney General); Dkt. [11] (Petitioner).

The Respondents are correct that the instant challenge to the Megan's law registration requirements and reporting requirements are not cognizable in habeas and only cognizable via a civil rights action. See, e.g., Virsnieks v. Smith, 521 F.3d 707 (7th Cir. 2008). In Virsnieks, the habeas petitioner therein, a state prisoner, brought a Section 2254 ...


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