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Christian Koelsch v. the County of Lancaster

September 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.


Christian Koelsch claims that he was unlawfully jailed by Defendants after a judge in Lancaster County ordered his release on parole. He sued Lancaster County as well as a number of officials of the Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services, including Mark Wilson, the Director; James Hansberry, the Program Director; Theresa Miller-Landon, a Division Director of Special Supervision; and Karen Andreadis, Supervisor of the Pre-Parole Unit. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not violate Koelsch's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment or his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. They also contend they are entitled to qualified immunity. The Court agrees that Koelsch has failed to show that his continued detention violated his rights and will therefore grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


On May 19, 2010, Koelsch pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor retail theft. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A [Lancaster County Docket Sheet].) He was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine. (Id. at Ex. E [Pet. to Issue Capias and Bench Warrant].) However, as a result of an altercation with his father in which a protection from abuse order was entered against Koelsch, his probation was revoked. (Id.; Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts [Defs.' SOF] ¶¶ 2-6.) Judge Jeffrey Reich of the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas sentenced Koelsch to a prison term of three months to twenty-three months. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. F [Sentence Sheet].) The Sentence Sheet directs that Koelsch was eligible for parole upon completion of a Special Offenders Services (SOS)/psychiatric evaluation and a parole plan. (Id.) A parole plan requires an approved address, the signature of a probation officer, and a signature of the parolee accepting the rules and regulations of the probation and parole office. (Id. Ex. J. [Andreadis Dep.] at 33; id. Ex. L[Hansberry Dep.] at 81; id. Ex. O [Miller-Landon Dep.] at 62-63.) The pre-parole unit is responsible for developing the parole plan. (Andreadis Dep. at 34.)

If an inmate was "at [his or her] parole date," had a verified address to live, and met all court-ordered conditions in the sentencing order, the inmate was eligible for a petition for parole. (Id. at 13-14.) In the event of uncertainty regarding whether an inmate met a particular condition specified in the sentencing sheet for parole, Andreadis would seek clarification from the judge by emailing the judge's secretary. (Id. at 16.) Neither an inmate nor his or her counsel is necessarily made aware that a parole official has sought clarification from the judge, though there are times when one or both individuals are made aware. (Id. at 22-23.)

Koelsch's parole eligibility date was February 27, 2011. (Id. at 32.) On February 3, 2011, Andreadis emailed Ruth Markley, Judge Reich's secretary, seeking clarification of Koelsch's parole status. She wrote, "Public Defender Strasznski is telling the Pre-parole Unit that [Koelsch] can be released prior to 2/27/11 as long as the psychiatric eval is complete. I am looking for clarification from Judge Reich. Can you please tell me if this is the Judge's intention?" (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. G [Andreadis email].) Markley responded, "Judge Reich says he agrees that he should be released to parole upon completion of his Psychiatric Evaluation as long as his treatment/parole plan is in place and it was determined that he is not a risk to others." (Id.) Despite this clarification, Andreadis remained uncertain about the Judge's "risk to others," statement, so she sought guidance from her supervisors. (Andreadis Dep. at 43.) Koelsch contacted Miller-Landon, Division Director of Special Supervision in Adult Probation and Parole Services, about how best to decide whether Koelsch's release would be a threat to community safety. (Miller-Landon Dep. at 17.) Miller-Landon then reviewed Dr. Jerome Gottlieb's psychiatric evaluation of Koelsch and noted that he suggested a psychological evaluation for Koelsch. (Id.) Miller-Landon suggested to Andreadis that the recommended psychological evaluation of Koelsch be conducted. (Id. at 17, 34.) Hansberry, who at the time of Koelsch's imprisonment was a Division Director for Adult Probation and Parole Services of the Lancaster County Courts, became involved with Koelsch's case in early February, 2011, when Andreadis and Miller-Landon came to him with information about Koelsch. (Hansberry Dep. at 7, 32-34.) Andreadis was unsure about how to proceed to ensure Koelsch was not a threat and Miller-Landon came to him with "disturbing information about [Koelsch's] conduct and behavior." (Id. at 32-34.) As a result, Miller-Landon and Hansberry went to Judge Reich's chambers for additional clarification. (Andreadis Dep. at 44-45; Miller-Landon Dep. at 34.) At that meeting, Judge Reich ordered a psychological evaluation prior to Koelsch's release. (Andreadis Dep. at 45-46; Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. Q [Feb. 10, 2011 Hansberry email] ("Today Teri and I met with Judge Reich who indicated he wants Koelsch to remain in [Lancaster County Prison] until he has the psychological eval that was recommended by Dr. Gottlieb.").)

On February 14, 2011, Hansberry emailed numerous individuals about his meeting with Miller-Landon, and Judge Reich. According to Hansberry, Judge Reich instructed that Koelsch was to remain in jail until he had a psychological evaluation from Dr. Jerome Gottlieb. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. K [Rivera Notes]; see also Miller-Landon Dep. at 54 ("The first meeting with the judge would have been February 14, when we requested that the psychological be completed prior to his release.").)*fn1

Sometime around March 11, 2011, Cory Miller filed a petition for early parole on behalf of his client, Koelsch. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 23.) According to the petition, the Pre-Parole Unit told him that Koelsch "did not have a steady address required to comply with the Parole Plan." (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. R [Early Parole Pet.] ¶ 5.) The petition further averred that Koelsch was a professional football player and that Koelsch's agent informed Miller that Koelsch earned a roster spot on the Harrisburg Stampede, a semiprofessional football team. (Id. ¶ 7.) Koelsch's spot on the team was jeopardized due to his incarceration. (Id.) The petition also claimed that Koelsch was permitted to live at the home of a friend's mother in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 10.)

On March 11, 2011, Judge Reich issued an order, "upon consideration of the within Petition for Early Parole made by attorney Cory J. Miller," that directed that Koelsch "be paroled immediately subject to a Parole Plan and the rules and regulation of the Lancaster County Prison to any outstanding detainers. Defendant is further ordered to follow through with his scheduled psychological evaluation upon release and complete any treatment prescribed." (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. S [Judge Reich's Mar. 11, 2011 Order].)

Hansberry testified that his office learned that Koelsch did not have a job with the Stampede.

(Hansberry Dep. at 48; Miller-Landon Dep. at 41.) He therefore asked Miller to meet him and Miller-Landon in Judge Reich's chambers. (Hansberry Dep. at 48; Miller-Landon Dep. at 41.) During the off-the-record meeting, which occurred on March 11, 2011, but after Judge Reich's order of that date, Judge Reich told the participants that he remained concerned that Koelsch was a threat to the public and that Koelsch was not to be released until an adequate parole plan was in place. (Hansberry Dep. at 49, 71, 78; see also Miller-Landon Dep. at 41 ("At that time we went back to Judge Reich, Mr. Hansberry and I went back to Judge Reich with Cory Miller and stated we can't confirm this and the judge said that he cannot be released."), 54, 56.) The notes from Koelsch's file indicate that Hansberry sent an email to Andreadis and Miller-Landon, among others, that stated, "Cory Miller and I just met with Judge Reich. The parole is not to go forward due to the fact that employment that was represented as requiring a release today is not, in fact, a possibility at present. A parole plan cannot be completed because we do not approve of the address provided at present nor is there employment with the Harrisburg Stampede." (Rivera's Notes.)

According to Andreadis, Koelsch was not released as of March 17, 2011, although the psychological evaluation was completed on that date, because he did not have a verified and approved address for his parole plan. (Andreadis Dep. at 48-49, 52-53, 61-63, 65, 71, 81, 85, 89; see also Hansberry Dep. at 35, 58, 70.) Hansberry testified that Koelsch remained in prison from March 17, 2011, until April 13, 2011, because officers of the unit were attempting to verify an address Koelsch had provided to them. (Hansberry Dep. at 59.) Prior to his release, Koelsch had provided the pre-parole unit with two addresses. The first address was not approved because there were weapons and ammunition in the home. (Id. at 82.) One of the Probation and Parole Unit's rules is that a parolee may not live in a home with weapons. (Andreadis Dep. at 55; Hansberry Dep. at 89- 90.) He also provided a second address in Ephrata, but the resident there did not want Koelsch to live at the home. (Andreadis Dep. at 55.) The woman that lived in the home Koelsch sought approval for reported that she "changed her mind and stated that she no longer wished to have Mr. Koelsch reside with her. She stated that she does not know enough about Mr. Koelsch's background, and she doesn't feel as though she could trust him in her home." (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. P [Chasity Pruner's Notes]; Rivera's Notes.)

On April 8, 2011, Koelsch said that he wanted to be released to the Water Street Mission. (Rivera's Notes.) The Water Street Mission is a homeless shelter to which Koelsch could have been paroled. (Andreadis Dep. at 71-72.) Andreadis had not previously told Koelsch that the Water Street Mission was an acceptable address for him to reside upon release. (Id. at 72.) On April 12, 2011, Judge Reich again signed an order that stated that Koelsch "shall be paroled immediately subject to the rules and regulations of the Lancaster County Prison, and a parole plan which will include participation in any psychiatric or psychological counseling as deemed necessary." (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. U [Judge Reich's Apr. 12, 2012 Order].) On April 13, 2011, Andreadis saw, for the first time, the April 12, 2011 order from Judge Reich. (Andreadis Dep. at 70.) Also on April 13, 2011, Andreadis met with Koelsch and had him sign the mandated rules and regulations, approved Koelsch's address at the Water Street Mission, set up his appointment with his parole officer, and released him. (Andreadis Dep. at 70-71, 73-74.)

Andreadis conceded that if Koelsch had previously informed probation and parole or the pre-parole unit that he wanted to live at the Water Street Mission, he would have been released. (Id. at 80-81, 92.) She also admitted that the county never informed Koelsch that the Water Street Mission was an option for him. (Id. at 80-82.) Hansberry testified that there was an expectation that ...

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