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Randy Carl Hinkley v. Lehigh County Clerk of Courts

March 28, 2012

RANDY CARL HINKLEY
v.
LEHIGH COUNTY CLERK OF COURTS, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Juan R. Sanchez, J.

MEMORANDUM

Pro se Plaintiff Randy Carl Hinkley, a prisoner in state custody, brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Lehigh County Clerk of Courts, Clerk of Judicial Records Andrea Naugle, Deputy Clerk of Judicial Records Toni Remer, the Lehigh County Probation Department,*fn1 and

Probation Officers Pamela Sheffer and Denise Frederick. Hinkley asserts all Defendants violated his Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendment rights by causing his continued incarceration, allegedly beyond the expiration of his sentences in three Lehigh County criminal cases, and seeks damages for his wrongful incarceration and declaratory relief. He also alleges Sheffer and Frederick violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by causing him to be prosecuted and sentenced for probation and parole violations after his underlying sentences had expired, and Naugle and Remer violated his First Amendment rights by refusing to file his January 22, 2011, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Request for Bail in state court. Defendants ask this Court to dismiss Hinkley's Amended Complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing Hinkley's claims are not cognizable under § 1983 insofar as they challenge Defendants' alleged errors in computing his sentence, and are otherwise time-barred. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

FACTS*fn2

In April 1992, Hinkley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and defiant trespass in Case No. 2967/1990 in Lehigh County and was sentenced to a one-year term of probation. Later the same year, Hinkley was arrested in Case No. 1689/1992, also in Lehigh County, and, as a result of the arrest, a probation violation was lodged in Case No. 2967/1990. In January 1993, Hinkley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of recklessly endangering another person and simple assault in Case No. 1689/1992 and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of time served (approximately seven months) to two years less one day, to run concurrently with the sentence imposed in Case No. 2967/1990. Also in January 1993, Hinkley's probation was revoked in Case No. 2967/1990, and he was sentenced to new 23-month term of probation.*fn3 Hinkley was thereafter granted immediate parole in Case No. 1689/1992.

While the charges in Case No. 1689/1992 were pending, Hinkley also pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge in Northampton County in 1992 (Case No. 1228/1992), for which he was given an incarceration sentence of 23 months to five years. Hinkley contends his release from custody in Lehigh County on January 15, 1993, was erroneous because he was also serving his sentence in the Northampton County case at the time of his release.

The status of Hinkley's criminal cases during the decade following his January 1993 release is not entirely clear. Petitions for probation and/or parole violations appear to have been filed in Case Nos. 2967/1990 and 1689/1992 in August 1993. See Am. Compl. Part II ¶ 8 (alleging parole violation warrant was issued on August 27, 1993); 2967/1990 Docket at 6; 1689/1992 Docket at 8. However, Hinkley does not appear to have been arrested until 1995, when he was taken into custody for a week in April 1995 and for a single day in June 1995. See Am. Compl. Part I ¶ 10 (alleging Hinkley was detained on a disorderly conduct complaint in 1995); Am. Compl. Exs. 4 & 10 (ECF Nos. 15 at 4 & 14 at 2) (indicating Hinkley was awarded "commitment credit" on Case No. 2967/1990 for April 19-25, 1995, and June 6, 1995).*fn4

After his release in June 1995, Hinkley was again arrested in 2003, and probation and parole revocation proceedings were thereafter initiated in Case Nos. 2967/1990 and 1689/1992, respectively. In November 2003, Hinkley's probation in Case No. 2967/1990 was revoked. Although he was sentenced to a new 23-month term of probation, he nevertheless remained in custody pending the disposition of Case No. 1689/1992. In December 2003, Hinkley's parole was revoked in Case No. 1689/1992, and he was ordered to serve the balance of his original sentence in that case and granted immediate work release.

In February 2004, Hinkley left work release and was thereafter charged with escape in Case No. 1209/2004 in Lehigh County. While the escape charge was pending, Hinkley was returned to the Lehigh County Prison where he continued to serve the balance of his sentence in Case No. 1689/1992, which appears to have expired on May 18, 2005. In January 2005, Hinkley pleaded guilty to the escape charge, and in March 2005, he was sentenced to two and a half to six years of imprisonment, to run consecutively to all other sentences. In May 2005, Hinkley's probation in Case No. 2967/1990 was revoked, and he was resentenced to one to two years of imprisonment, to run consecutively to the sentence imposed in Case No. 1209/2004, with credit to be given for all time spent in custody as a result of the criminal charges for which sentence was being imposed. Although Hinkley appears to have completed his sentences in Case Nos. 2967/1990 and 1689/1992, he is still serving his sentence in Case No. 1209/2004. Hinkley's sentence in the Northampton County case (No. 1228/1992) was terminated by order of May 6, 2005.*fn5 See Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus Ex. 1 (ECF No. 17-1 at 3).

In his Amended Complaint, Hinkley primarily challenges Defendants' failure to properly credit time he spent in custody and time he alleges he erroneously spent at liberty toward his sentences in Case Nos. 2967/1990 and 1689/1992, resulting in his continued incarceration beyond the expiration of his sentences in all three of his Lehigh County cases. Specifically, Hinkley alleges the Clerk of Courts, Naugle, and Remer have violated his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to credit the approximately 17 months he spent in custody between November 18, 2003 (when he was sentenced to 23 months of probation in Case No. 2967/1990), and May 18, 2005 (when he completed his sentence in Case No. 1689/1992), toward his sentence in Case No. 2967/1990.*fn6 He also alleges Frederick and Sheffer violated his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights by failing to credit time he spent at liberty following what he contends was his erroneous release from custody on January 15, 1993, toward his sentences in 2967/1990 and 1689/1992.

In addition to these denial of time credit claims, Hinkley also alleges Frederick and Sheffer violated his substantive due process rights by bringing an allegedly void arrest warrant to a November 2003 revocation hearing, by failing to correct this error when it was brought to their attention, and by altering his criminal history in his presentence investigation report to remove any reference to his Northampton County case. Finally, Hinkley alleges Naugle and Remer violated his First Amendment rights by refusing to file his January 22, 2011, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Request for Bail in state court. Hinkley seeks damages for his allegedly unlawful incarceration from May 8, 2011, to the present, as well as declaratory relief.

Both prior to and since filing the instant § 1983 action, Hinkley has pursued his denial of time credit claims at the state level administratively and through appeals and other post-conviction filings in his Lehigh County criminal cases. See, e.g., Am. Compl. Exs. 9-11, 13, 15-27 (ECF No. 14 at 1-3, 5, 7-19). Hinkley's state court efforts to invalidate his sentence (or some portion thereof) have been unsuccessful to date. Hinkley has also raised his denial of time credit claims in a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which is currently pending before this Court.*fn7

DISCUSSION

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pleaded "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court first must separate the legal and factual elements of the plaintiff's claims. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11. The ...


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