United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
April 30, 2014
JESSE ANDERSON STROUD, JR., Plaintiff
MR. BROCKLEHURST, et al., Defendants.
A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.
Jesse Anderson Stroud, Jr., a state inmate presently housed at the Benner State Correctional Institution (SCI-Benner), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania filed this pro se civil rights action challenging the following Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (the Board) employee's refusal to release him on parole following the Board's May 9, 2009 grant of parole: Mr. Brocklehurst; Mr. Wint; Ms. Asbury; Mr. Applegarth; Dr. Woods; CO Snyder; CO Gerber; Lt. Matthews; Counselor Foust; Warden Harlow and Mr. Tompson. (Doc. 5, Compl.) As relief, Mr. Stroud seeks his immediate release to a CCC and monetary damages.
The Complaint is before the court for preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Upon screening the Complaint, the court will dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) due to Mr. Stroud's failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.
On May 9, 2009, the Board granted Mr. Stroud parole. Since then he has repeatedly requested defendants to place him in a specialized CCC in Region I (Philadelphia). (Doc. 5, ECF p. 26.) On August 16, 2011, an application for Mr. Stroud's CCC placement was submitted. Unfortunately, it was rejected on October 24, 2011. Defendants have told Mr. Stroud that because he is a convicted sex offender he "is required to have an approved home plan prior to being submitted for release to a Center." ( Id., ECF p. 20.) Mr. Stroud contends this is "contrary to [his] Parole Sheet Decision." ( Id. ) Mr. Stroud remains incarcerated today.
As relief, noting that his "max out" date is September 30, 2023, Mr. Stroud seeks the court to "vacate... the ten years left on [his] thirty year sentence" and his immediate placement in a CCC. ( Id., ECF p. 26.) He also seeks compensatory damages for pain and suffering.
III. Standard of Review
When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without the prepayment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, requires the court to screen a complaint. Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court is mandated to screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).
A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003)(citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008))
Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint need only "include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." "[T]he factual allegations of a complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level' and the complaining party must offer more than labels and conclusions' or formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" W. Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC. v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Legal conclusions are "not entitled to the assumption of truth." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).
Finally, we note that pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys and are to be liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Philips, 515 F.3d at 245-46 (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).
1. Alleged Civil Rights Violation
To the extent Mr. Stroud seeks monetary compensation for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights as he remains incarcerated after the Board granted him parole, he fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted. Although he does not so specify, the court construes this claim as an alleged violation of a protected liberty interest as implicating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is well settled that "[t]here is no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence." Greenholtz v. Inmates of Nebraska Penal and Corr. Facility, 442 U.S. 1, 7, 99 S.Ct. 2100, 2104, 60 L.Ed.2d 668 (1979); Jago v. Van Curen, 454 U.S. 14, 21, 102 S.Ct. 31, 36, 70 L.Ed.2d 13 (1981)(per curiam). Additionally, the "mere grant of parole by a state parole board does not vest a prisoner with a protected liberty interest." Josey v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, Civ. No. 1:13-CV-0043, 2014 WL 310448 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 28, 2014)(citing Jago, 454 U.S. at 21, 102 S.Ct. at 36). Only when the prisoner attains the status of "parolee, " does a liberty interest attach requiring a minimum level of due process protection prior to the revocation of that status. See Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 9, 99 S.Ct. at 2105; Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed.2d 484 (1972). In Pennsylvania, a grant of parole is not executed until the prisoner signs the acknowledgment of parole conditions, Board form PBPP-11, and the Board issues its parole release order, Board form PBPP-10. Green v. Commonwealth Pensylvania Bd. of Probation & Parole, 1010 Pa.Commw. 132, 134, 515 A.2d 1006, 1008 (Pa.Commw. Ct. 1986).
In this instance, Mr. Stroud does not allege he was granted parole and then it was improperly revoked. Rather he contends that he was granted parole but never released due to defendants' unwillingness to place him in a CCC without a home plan. Based on Mr. Stroud's averments, and the attachments to his Complaint, it does not appear that Mr. Stroud has yet attained the status of a "parolee, " as there is no indication that the Board's May 9, 2009 grant of parole was ever executed. Thus, as Mr. Stroud has not yet obtained the status of "parolee, " he does not have a liberty interest in parole, or his release from prison prior to the expiration of his sentence. Accordingly, Mr. Stroud has failed to assert a claim on which relief may be granted.
2. Request for Habeas Relief
A habeas petition, rather than a civil rights action under § 1983, is the proper means for an inmate to challenge the fact or duration of his confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 1841, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). Thus, to the extent that Mr. Stroud is challenging his continued incarceration on the basis of defendants' failure to abide by the Board's May 9, 2009, parole order, he must pursue that claim in a habeas corpus action, and not in a civil rights case.
In this case, the Mr. Stroud, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Moreover, based on the claims asserted by Mr. Stroud, as well as the relief he is seeking (i.e. his release from prison), his sole federal remedy is a writ of habeas corpus and not a civil rights action. Therefore, allowing Mr. Stroud leave to amend his present Complaint would be futile.
An appropriate Order follows.