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David Thomas Leonhart v. Pa Board of Probation/Parole

March 2, 2012

DAVID THOMAS LEONHART PETITIONER,
v.
PA BOARD OF PROBATION/PAROLE, THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF CRAWFORD, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

MEMORANDUM OPINION

David Thomas Leonhart ("Petitioner") is currently serving a sentence of 5 to 10 years upon a conviction of Aggravated Indecent Assault obtained in the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas. Petitioner pleaded guilty to the charge in a plea bargain where other charges were nolle prossed. Petitioner's sentence had an effective date of November 16, 2004, rendering the completion of his minimum sentence to occur on November 16, 2009 and his maximum sentence to occur on November 16, 2014. In an August 24, 2009 decision, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("the Board") refused to release Petitioner on parole at the expiration of his minimum sentence in November 2009.

The Board gave as its reasons for denying Petitioner parole, the following:

YOU NEED TO PARTICIPATE IN AND COMPLETE ADDITIONAL INSTITUTIONAL PROGRAMS.

YOUR RISK AND NEEDS ASSESSMENT INDICATING YOUR LEVEL OF RISK TO THE COMMUNITY.

THE NEGATIVE RECOMMENDATION MADE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS.

YOUR FAILURE TO DEMONSTRATE MOTIVATION FOR SUCCESS. YOUR LACK OF REMORSE FOR THE OFFENSE(S) COMMITTED.

ECF No. 13-1 at 28 to 29. It is the August 24, 2009 denial of parole which gives rise to this habeas case. Because we find none of the issues raised meritorious, Petitioner will be denied relief.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In October 2009, Petitioner initiated the present action by seeking to file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254 ("the Petition"), challenging the Board's denial of parole. The Petition was formally docketed in November 2009, ECF No. 6, along with a Memorandum of Law in support. ECF No. 7. In December 2009, the District Attorney of Crawford County filed a short Answer. ECF No. 10. The Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania filed a more comprehensive Answer also in December 2009. ECF No. 13. Petitioner and Respondents have consented to have a Magistrate Judge exercise plenary jurisdiction. ECF Nos. 2, 14. The case was reassigned to the undersigned on June 20, 2011. ECF No. 16.

II.DISCUSSION

The Petition is not a model of clarity. Petitioner contends that he is "challenging the ongoing constitutionality of the Parole Procedures used in determining the rationale to deny me Parole[.]". ECF No. 6 at 15, ¶ 11(e). In the space on the pre-printed habeas petition form where Petitioner is asked to list ground one of his Petition, he wrote "Unconstitutional Rationale to deny me parole by using no-relevant factors and/or procedures." Id., at 15, ¶ 12. Petitioner asserted the following as the facts which supported his claim: "[d]uring my incarceration, I have actively participated and completed all my prescriptive programs and have had no misconducts, and furthermore, I was denied my substantive due process rights by the PA Board of Probation and Parole by their unconstitutional rationale to deny me parole." Id. Unfortunately, Petitioner's Memorandum of Law is not any clearer. We will address Petitioner's arguments made both in the Petition and the Memorandum of Law.

A. FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT CLAIMS

Petitioner raises a Fourteenth Amendment claim. From the Petition it is clear that Petitioner is raising a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim. ECF No. 6 at 15, ¶ 12. From the Memorandum of Law, it appears Petitioner may also be raising a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process claim. ECF No. 7 at 3 to 5.

1. PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS

To the extent that Petitioner is making a procedural due process claim, it fails. Conducting a procedural due process analysis involves a two-step inquiry: the first question to be asked is whether the complaining party has a protected liberty interest within the contemplation of the Due Process clause and, if so, the second question to be asked is whether the process afforded the complaining party comported with constitutional requirements. Shoats v. Horn, 213 F.3d 140, 143 (3d Cir. 2000). A liberty interest can arise in one of two ways: 1) it can be derived directly from the Due Process clause of the Federal Constitution or 2) it can arise from the state's statutory scheme. Asquith v. ...


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