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Garza v. Holt

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 19, 2013

ALBERT GARZA, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN RONNIE R. HOLT, Respondent

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

Albert Garza, an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania (USP-Allenwood), filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Service of the petition was previously ordered.

Petitioner was convicted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas on charges of robbery, kidnaping, and murder.[1] He is presently serving a life sentence which was imposed on July 19, 1973. See Doc. 1, ¶ 4. His conviction and life sentence were affirmed in 1974 following a direct appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. See Garza v. United States , 498 F.2d 1066 (5th Cir. 1974).[2]

Petitioner was subsequently convicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois of escape and sentenced to a consecutive fifteen (15) year term of imprisonment.[3]

Garza states that he became eligible for mandatory parole after completing service of thirty (30) years of confinement (service of two thirds of his life sentence). He asserts that the United States Parole Commission (Parole Commission) acted improperly by denying him release on mandatory parole without providing him with an in person hearing. He further generally contends that the Parole Commission erred when it based its adverse decision on policies, regulations, and guidelines which were not in effect at the time he committed his underlying offense in violation of his due process rights, 18 U.S.C. § 4206(d)[4] and the Ex Post Facto Clause.

By Order dated June 18, 2013, this Court directed the Respondent to file a written status report regarding the current status of Petitioner's mandatory parole eligibility. See Doc. 11. Respondent thereafter notified the Court that Garza had been afforded an in person mandatory parole review on May 15, 2013 which resulted in an ultimate determination that he was not eligible for release. See Doc. 13. Petitioner also responded to the June 18, 2013 Order by submitting an addendum indicating that the recent denial of mandatory parole was improper because the Parole Commission continues to use the same reasons to deny him parole and misapplied § 4206. See Doc. 12, p. 2.

Discussion

Title 28, United States Code § 2241, vests the federal district courts with jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus to persons in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Habeas corpus review under § 2241 "allows a federal prisoner to challenge the execution' of his sentence." Woodall v. Federal Bureau of Prisons , 432 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2005). Review is available "where the deprivation of rights is such that it necessarily impacts the fact or length of detention." Leamer v. Fauver , 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).

With respect to actions taken by the Parole Commission, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has routinely recognized that a federal court's review of a decision issued by the Parole Commission is limited to an "abuse of discretion" standard. E.g., United States v. Friedland , 83 F.3d 1531, 1542 (3d Cir. 1996); Bridge v. United States Parole Comm'n , 981 F.2d 97, 105 (3d Cir. 1992).

In Person Hearing

Petitioner initial claim contends that he was denied mandatory parole without being provided with an in person hearing.

"[P]arties must continue to have a personal stake in the outcome' of the lawsuit." Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp. , 494 U.S. 472, 477-78 (1990). For example, once a habeas corpus petitioner is released from custody, a federal court's authority to adjudicate the controversy is called into doubt. See Burkey v. Marberry, No. 07-4782, ___ F.3d ___, 2009 WL 385419, at *3 (3d Cir. Feb. 18, 2009). This is due to the fact that federal courts can only resolve actual cases or controversies, U.S. Const., Art. III, § 2, and this limitation subsists "through all stages of federal judicial proceedings...." Id . see also Steffel v. Thompson , 415 U.S. 452, 459 (1974) (the adjudicatory power of a federal court depends upon "the continuing existence of a live and acute controversy)" (emphasis in original). "Past exposure to illegal conduct is insufficient to sustain a present case or controversy... if unaccompanied by continuing, present adverse effects." Rosenberg v. Meese , 622 F.Supp. 1451, 1462 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (citing O'Shea v. Littleton , 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974)); see also Gaeta v. Gerlinski, Civil No. 3:CV-02-465, slip op. at p. 2 (M.D. Pa. May 17 , 2002) (Vanaskie, C.J.).

As explained in Burkey in the context of a habeas corpus challenge to the execution of a sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, "[i]ncarceration satisfies the case or controversy requirement; it is a concrete injury." Burkey, 2009 WL 385419, at *3. The Supreme Court in Spencer v. Kemna , 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998), held that release of a ...


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