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Kurt Danysh v. John E. Wetzel

June 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anne E. Covey, Judge

Submitted: June 1, 2012



Kurt Danysh (Danysh), an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville (SCI-Frackville), initiated this action by filing a pro se Complaint in Mandamus on December 6, 2011. On January 5, 2012, Danysh filed an Application for Special Relief seeking peremptory judgment. As a result of this Court's January 17, 2012 Order, this matter is being treated as a Petition for Review addressed to this Court's original jurisdiction. John E. Wetzel, the Secretary of the Department of Corrections (Secretary), filed Preliminary Objections to the Petition for Review. The Secretary's Preliminary Objections to Danysh's Petition for Review and Danysh's Application for Special Relief are currently before this Court.*fn1

On October 9, 1997, Danysh pled guilty to the third-degree murder of his father. He was subsequently sentenced to 22½ to 60 years in prison, and ordered to pay court costs and fines. On July 9, 2002, Danysh was advised that the Department of Corrections (DOC) was going to start deducting 20% of all money placed in his inmate account to pay costs and fines, pursuant to Section 9728 of the Sentencing Code,*fn2 commonly known as Act 84. In response, Danysh filed a motion in the Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas (trial court) to stop the deductions. The trial court issued an order upholding the deductions. Danysh appealed to the Superior Court.

The Superior Court ruled that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction, and vacated the trial court's order.*fn3 The DOC subsequently ceased all deductions from Danysh's inmate account. On May 21, 2007, Danysh initiated a voluntary payment plan to satisfy his debts to Susquehanna County (County).*fn4 On July 27, 2011, the DOC advised Danysh that it would once again begin deducting 20% of all money posted to his inmate account to satisfy his debts owed to the County. Danysh exhausted his administrative remedies by filing a DOC grievance, and then filed the instant Complaint in Mandamus.

This Court has held:

A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, and used to compel performance of a ministerial act or a mandatory duty. Mandamus may only be granted where the moving party establishes a clear legal right, the defendant's corresponding duty and the lack of any other appropriate and adequate remedy. A peremptory judgment in a mandamus action may be entered only where no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the case is free and clear from doubt. The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

DeGeorge v. Young, 892 A.2d 48, 51-52 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) (citations omitted) (emphasis added).

The Secretary argues that Danysh is not entitled to a peremptory judgment because he cannot establish a clear right to relief. The Secretary contends that DOC has the authority to collect costs and fees under Act 84 where there is a court order, and Danysh's Petition for Review should be dismissed. We agree.

Section 9728(b)(5) of the Sentencing Code,*fn5 specifically states:

The county correctional facility to which the offender has been sentenced or the [DOC] shall be authorized to make monetary deductions from inmate personal accounts for the purpose of collecting restitution or any other court- ordered obligation. Any amount deducted shall be transmitted by the [DOC] or the county correctional facility to the probation department of the county or other agent designated by the county commissioners of the county with the approval of the president judge of the county in which the offender was convicted. The [DOC] shall develop guidelines relating to its responsibilities under this paragraph.

Further, Section 1101 of the Crime Victims Act,*fn6 commonly known as Act 85, specifically states:

A person who pleads guilty or nolo contendere or who is convicted of a crime shall, in addition to costs imposed under 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 3571(c) (relating to Commonwealth portion of fines, etc.), pay costs of at least $60 and may be sentenced to pay additional costs in an amount ...

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