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[U] Buyna v. Commonwealth, Department of Corrections

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

December 4, 2013

ALLAN D. BUYNA, Appellant


Appeal from the Order Entered March 20, 2013 In the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County Civil Division at No(s): GD-13-004017




Appellant, Allan D. Buyna, appeals pro se from the order entered on March 20, 2013, dismissing his sixth petition filed under the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-9546. We affirm.

On December 13, 1978, Appellant was convicted of first-degree murder and, on March 5, 1980, Appellant was sentenced to serve a term of life in prison. On April 2, 1982, our Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's judgment of sentence.

From 1983 through 2002, Appellant filed five petitions for post-conviction collateral relief. As to each petition, the post-conviction court denied Appellant relief and the appellate courts affirmed the denial of relief. See Commonwealth v. Buyna, 797 A.2d 1021 (Pa.Super. 2002) (unpublished memorandum) at 1-3.

On March 5, 2013, Appellant filed a pleading entitled "Writ of Mandamus/Injunction" and, within this pleading, Appellant claimed that the sentencing court did not possess the statutory authority to sentence him to life imprisonment. Appellant thus demanded that the court grant him relief from his illegal sentence. Appellant's "Writ of Mandamus/Injunction, " 3/5/13, at 1-14. The PCRA court held that Appellant's pleading must be construed under the PCRA. As the petition was untimely under the PCRA, the PCRA court dismissed Appellant's petition on March 20, 2013, without a hearing. PCRA Court Order, 3/20/13, at 1. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal on April 19, 2013.

Now on appeal, Appellant claims that the PCRA court erred in construing his "Writ of Mandamus/Injunction" under the PCRA. According to Appellant, the PCRA does not encompass his claim and, therefore, the timeliness requirements of the PCRA do not apply to his petition. Appellant's contention fails and the PCRA court properly dismissed Appellant's patently untimely, serial PCRA petition.

As our Supreme Court has held, we "review an order granting or denying PCRA relief to determine whether the PCRA court's decision is supported by evidence of record and whether its decision is free from legal error." Commonwealth v. Liebel, 825 A.2d 630, 632 (Pa. 2003). Questions of statutory interpretation are issues of law, to which this Court's standard of review is de novo. Commonwealth v. Chester, 895 A.2d 520, 522 n.1 (Pa. 2006). Further, "[w]e may affirm a PCRA court's decision on any grounds if [the decision] is supported by the record." Commonwealth v. Rivera, 10 A.3d 1276, 1279 (Pa.Super. 2010).

The PCRA "provides for an action by which persons convicted of crimes they did not commit and persons serving illegal sentences may obtain collateral relief." 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9542. As the statute declares, the PCRA "is the sole means of obtaining collateral relief and encompasses all other common law and statutory remedies . . . including habeas corpus and coram nobis." Id.; see also Commonwealth v. Ahlborn, 699 A.2d 718, 721 (Pa. 1997). Thus, under the plain terms of the PCRA, "if the underlying substantive claim is one that could potentially be remedied under the PCRA, that claim is exclusive to the PCRA." Commonwealth v. Pagan, 864 A.2d 1231, 1233 (Pa.Super. 2004) (emphasis in original).

Within Appellant's "Writ of Mandamus/Injunction" Appellant claims that he is entitled to relief, as he is serving an illegal sentence. However, the PCRA undoubtedly encompasses Appellant's claim, as the claim concerns a "matter[] affecting [Appellant's] conviction [or] sentence." Commonwealth v. Judge, 916 A.2d 511, 520 (Pa. 2007), quoting Coady v. Vaughn, 770 A.2d 287, 293 (Pa. 2001) (Castille, J., concurring). Certainly, Appellant's claim is expressly encompassed by the PCRA. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9542 ("[the PCRA] provides for an action by which persons convicted of crimes they did not commit and persons serving illegal sentences may obtain collateral relief") (emphasis added); 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9543(a)(2)(vii) (providing that relief may be granted to individuals serving "a sentence greater than the lawful maximum").

Appellant's claim thus falls under the rubric of the PCRA and, since the PCRA encompasses Appellant's claim, Appellant "can only find relief under the PCRA's strictures." Pagan, 864 A.2d at 1233; see also Commonwealth v. Jackson, 30 A.3d 516, 521 (Pa.Super. 2011) ("[petitioner's legality of sentence] claim is cognizable under the PCRA . . . . [Thus, petitioner's] 'motion to correct illegal sentence' is a PCRA petition and cannot be considered under any other common law remedy").

The PCRA contains a jurisdictional time-bar, which is subject to limited statutory exceptions. This time-bar demands that "any PCRA petition, including a second or subsequent petition, [] be filed within one year of the date that the petitioner's judgment of sentence becomes final, unless [the] petitioner pleads [and] proves that one of the [three] exceptions to the timeliness requirement . . . is applicable." Commonwealth v. McKeever, 947 A.2d 782, 785 (Pa.Super. 2008); 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b). Further, since the time-bar implicates the subject matter jurisdiction of our courts, we are required to first determine the timeliness of a petition before we are able to consider any of the underlying claims. Commonwealth v. Yarris, 731 A.2d 581, 586 (Pa. 1999). Our Supreme Court has explained:

the PCRA timeliness requirements are jurisdictional in nature and, accordingly, a PCRA court is precluded from considering untimely PCRA petitions. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Murray, 753 A.2d 201, 203 (Pa. 2000) (stating that "given the fact that the PCRA's timeliness requirements are mandatory and jurisdictional in nature, no court may properly disregard or alter them in order to reach the merits of the claims raised in a PCRA petition that is filed in an untimely manner"); Commonwealth v. Fahy, 737 A.2d 214, 220 (Pa. 1999) (holding that where a petitioner fails to satisfy the PCRA time requirements, this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the petition). [The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has] also held that even where the PCRA court does not address the applicability of the PCRA timing mandate, th[e court would] consider the issue sua sponte, as it is a threshold question implicating our subject matter jurisdiction and ability to grant the requested relief.

Commonwealth v. Whitney, 817 A.2d 473, 475-476 (Pa. 2003).

In the case at bar, Appellant's judgment of sentence became final in 1982. As Appellant did not file his current petition until March 5, 2013, the current petition is manifestly untimely and the burden thus fell upon Appellant to plead and prove that one of the enumerated exceptions to the one-year time-bar applied to his case. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9545(b)(1); Commonwealth v. Perrin, 947 A.2d 1284, 1286 (Pa.Super. 2008) (to properly invoke a statutory exception to the one-year time-bar, the PCRA demands that the petitioner properly plead and prove all required elements of the relied-upon exception).

Here, Appellant has not even attempted to plead a valid statutory exception to the PCRA's one-year time-bar. Thus, since Appellant's PCRA petition is manifestly untimely and Appellant did not plead any of the statutory exceptions to the one-year time-bar, our "courts are without jurisdiction to offer [Appellant] any form of relief." Commonwealth v. Jackson, 30 A.3d 516, 523 (Pa.Super. 2011). We, therefore, affirm the PCRA court's March 20, 2013 order dismissing Appellant's PCRA petition without a hearing.[1]

Order affirmed. Appellant's "Motion to Expand the Record/Motion for Directed Verdict, " "Motion for Continuance, " "Motion for Summary Judgment" and "Motion to Settle the Claim" denied. Jurisdiction relinquished.

Judgment Entered.

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