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Cunningham v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Corrections

March 12, 2010

RASHAD CUNNINGHAM, PETITIONER
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Simpson

Submitted: January 22, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

OPINION

Before this Court in its original jurisdiction is a preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer filed by the Department of Corrections (DOC), to a petition for review in the nature of a complaint in mandamus (complaint) filed by unrepresented inmate Rashad Cunningham. Relying on DOC Policy DC-ADM 003 (relating to the release of inmate information), Cunningham, representing himself, seeks to have DOC provide, from its own records, his pre-sentence investigation report. Because we agree with DOC that Cunningham's complaint is legally insufficient to state a cause of action in mandamus, we sustain DOC's preliminary objection and dismiss the complaint.

In his complaint, Cunningham alleges the following facts. Cunningham is incarcerated at SCI-Mahanoy (SCI). In November, 2008, Cunningham submitted an inmate request to SCI to obtain a copy of his pre-sentence investigation report. Compl., Ex. A. SCI's Records Supervisor denied the request, explaining "[w]e cannot provide you with a copy of a [pre-sentence investigation report] you have to request that from the county directly." Id.

Thus, in December, 2008, Cunningham submitted a grievance with the SCI Superintendent's Assistant, seeking a copy of his pre-sentence investigation report. Id. at Ex. E. In Cunningham's grievance, he asserted that pursuant to DCADM 003, he had the right to access inmate information such as sentencing data. As such, Cunningham contended his pre-sentence investigation report constituted sentencing data and, thus, he had a right to access the report. The SCI Superintendent's Assistant, however, denied Cunningham's grievance, explaining:

'Sentencing Data' refers to information pertaining to the duration of [an inmate's] confinement including, but not limited to, the crime committed, the sentence imposed and dates of incarceration. The document you requested is considered confidential and is not considered sentencing data. As such, it will not be released to you.. [Y]ou can request your [pre-sentence investigation report] directly from the county as [it is] the [author] of the document.

Id. at Ex. F.

In January, 2009, Cunningham appealed the initial denial of his grievance to the SCI Superintendent, requesting that he review the denial. Id. at Ex. G. Upon review, the SCI Superintendent denied Cunningham's appeal. The SCI Superintendent explained his Assistant appropriately denied Cunningham's grievance, and Cunningham should follow his instruction and request the presentence investigation report from the county. Compl., Ex. H.

Cunningham submitted an appeal to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievance and Appeals seeking final review of his grievance. Id. at Ex I. The Chief Grievance Officer, however, denied Cunningham's appeal, stating "[n]o where in the DC ADM 003 does it state that you are permitted to obtain a copy of your [pre-sentence investigation] report." Id. at Ex. J.

As a result, in April, 2009, Cunningham filed a complaint in this Court. Through his complaint, Cunningham asserts that pursuant to Pa. R. Crim. P. 707(1) (relating to documents transmitted to prison), the sentencing court delivered his pre-sentence investigation report to SCI. Cunningham further asserts that pursuant to DC-ADM 003, he has a right to access inmate information and that there are no requirements within the policy limiting the information he can access. Thus, Cunningham contends he has a right to access a copy of his pre-sentence investigation report as inmate information.

In response, DOC filed a preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer, asserting DC-ADM 003 does not create any right in Cunningham to obtain his pre-sentence investigation report because under Pa. R. Crim. P. 703 (relating to disclosure of pre-sentence reports), the report is a confidential document, which Cunningham is not permitted to access without court order.

When ruling on a preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer, this Court considers as true all well-pled facts that are material and relevant as well as all inferences reasonably deducible from those facts. Portalatin v. Dep't. of Corr., 979 A.2d 944 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009). In determining whether to sustain a demurrer we need not accept as true conclusions of law, unwarranted inferences from the facts, argumentative allegations, or expressions of opinion. Id.

Furthermore, this Court may only issue a writ of mandamus where the inmate possesses a clear legal right to enforce the performance of a ministerial act or mandatory duty, the defendant possesses a corresponding duty to perform the act, and the inmate possesses no other adequate or appropriate remedy. Lawrence v. Dep't. of Corr., 941 A.2d 70 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007). In addition, the purpose of mandamus is not to establish legal rights but to ...


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