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Blatt v. Commonwealth, Board of Probation and Parole

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 4, 2014

DEBORAH BLATT, Plaintiff
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA BOARD OF PROBATION AND PAROLE; JOHN E. WETZEL; SHIRLEY MOORE SMEAL; ASSISTANT COUNSEL RANDALL N. SEARS; MICHAEL C. POTTEIGER; SHAWN ADAMCZYK Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Deborah Blatt, is a former prisoner housed at the Allegheny County Jail.[1] She filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP"), Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections ("BOC"), Secretary of Corrections John E. Wetzel ("Wetzel"), Deputy Secretary of Corrections Shirley Moore Smeal ("Smeal"), Assistant Counsel Randall N. Sears ("Sears"), Chair of PBPP Michael C. Potteiger ("Potteiger"), and Parole Agent Shawn Adamczyk ("Adamczyk"), in their individual and official capacities. The Defendants argue in their Motion for Summary Judgment that Plaintiff does not present evidence that could sustain her burden of proving the elements of her claims against all Defendants, in their official and individual capacities, in violation of her Eighth Amendment rights for wrongfully incarcerating her past her maximum sentence date. For the reasons set forth below, this Court agrees with Defendants and will grant their Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. Factual Background

On November 28, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Complaint with three counts. Count I alleges that Defendants[2] falsely imprisoned Plaintiff by detaining her intentionally and without legal justification. Complaint, ECF No. 1, 6-7. Count II alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights by wrongly incarcerating her past her maximum sentence date, constituting cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 7-8. Count III alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights by wrongly incarcerating her past her maximum sentence date, violating her substantive and procedural due process rights. Id. at 8.

Plaintiff contends that she was incarcerated 216 days beyond the maximum date of her state sentence, which was October 27, 2010 by Plaintiff's calculation. Id. at 3. She states that she was detained on or about January 8, 2011 as a result of the Defendants' reckless, grossly negligent, or intentional conduct, and was not released until August 11, 2011. Id. at 3, 5. According to Plaintiff, Defendants Wetzel, Potteiger, and the City of Pittsburgh failed to "properly implement the law, " which led to her unwarranted detainment. Id. at 5. She claims Defendants Adamczyk, Smeal, and Sears had an "affirmative duty to properly compute" her maximum sentence date and to release her on this date, but disregarded this duty and Plaintiff's claims "that she was being held illegally." Id. at 5.

On January 22, 2013, Defendant Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11, on the grounds that, as a sub-unit of the governing body, Allegheny County, it lacks the capacity to be sued. Plaintiff apparently agreed, and filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, ECF No. 11, dismissing this defendant on February 25, 2013.

On January 28, 2014, Defendants Adamczyk, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania PBPP, Smeal, Potteiger, Sears, and Wetzel filed the Motion for Summary Judgment now before the Court. Defendants argue that they did not violate the Eighth Amendment by keeping Plaintiff incarcerated past her true maximum sentence date, because they had no personal involvement with Plaintiff's case, and were not deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff because, as members of the PBPP, they correctly instituted Plaintiff's sentence according to the court's order. On March 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, conceding that:

[S]ummary judgment is appropriate with respect to the following claims: the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole enjoys immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution; to the extent they are sued in their official capacity, moving defendants enjoy immunity pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution; Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege the personal involvement of Defendants Smeal and Potteiger; Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim is precluded by the Supreme Court's "explicit source rule"; and Plaintiff was released within a reasonable amount of time after the Department of Corrections was notified by the Pennsylvania Boar[d] of Probation and Parole of Plaintiff's newly calculated maximum sentence date.

ECF No. 33, 1.

Inasmuch as Plaintiff has conceded that the claims against Defendants Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Smeal, and Potteiger are unfounded, the Court will grant summary judgment in their favor.[3] Plaintiff still contends, however, that summary judgment should be denied with respect to her Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Wetzel and Adamczyk acting in their individual capacities. Id. at 2.

Defendant Wetzel has been the Secretary of Corrections for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections since May 3, 2011.[4] In this position he "oversees 25 state correctional institutions, one motivational boot camp, 14 community corrections centers, nearly 40 contract facilities, a training academy, approximately 15, 000 employees and more than 51, 300 inmates." DOC Press Release, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibit 2. As part of these duties, he "directly supervises the Executive Deputy Secretary, the Deputy Secretary for Administration and the directors of the Press Office, the Office of Legislative Affairs, the Office of Policy, Grants & Reentry, the Office of Victim Advocate, the Office of Planning, Research & Statistics, and the Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals." Pennsylvania Manual Excerpt, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibit 3, *1.

Defendant Adamczyk is a Parole Agent employed by the PBPP in its Pittsburgh District Office. Complaint, ECF No. 1, 3. As a Parole Agent, Adamczyk is "generally responsible for providing counseling or supervision of probationers and parolees in the state probation and parole system." Adamczyk Decl., ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶ 2. However, he states he has "no responsibility for calculating or determining offender sentences. I would also have no responsibility for sentence recalculations, including those based on parole violations.... Furthermore, I have received no training from the Board regarding sentence calculations or sentence recalculations." Id. at ¶ 3.

The summary judgment record reflects that in late 2004, Plaintiff was charged with several criminal offenses in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County, PA. Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas Court Summary for Deborah Lee Blatt, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibit 4. On October 28, 2005, the court terminated Plaintiff's bond, and she was to remain detained. Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County Criminal Docket, and Sentencing Order, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibits 5, 7.

On August 9, 2007, the court sentenced Plaintiff to confinement for a minimum term of eighteen months and a maximum of sixty months. Sentencing Order, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibit 7. The Order of Court gave Plaintiff "credit for time served" at the date of sentencing, but did not specify the dates Plaintiff was to be credited. Id.

On December 14, 2007, the Board of Probation and Parole issued Plaintiff's sentence profile. PBPP Sentence Profile for Deborah Greene, ECF No. 30-1, Exhibit 8. This listed the effective date of her sentence as July 25, 2006, making Plaintiff's maximum sentence date July 25, 2011. Id . On July 2, 2008, Plaintiff was released on parole. PBPP, Order to Release on Parole, ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 21. The Order releasing her on parole also set her maximum sentence date as July 25, 2011. Id . There is nothing submitted to the record to suggest that Plaintiff objected to or attempted to change her maximum sentence date to reflect credit for time served from October 28, 2005 to July 24, 2006.

On January 7, 2011, Plaintiff was arrested on new criminal charges in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.[5] At this time Plaintiff was charged with three technical parole violations for violating two conditions of her parole. Notice of Charges and Hearing, ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 10e. Plaintiff was still on parole for her 2007 DUI conviction because of the July 25, 2011 maximum sentence date on her sentencing profile and Order to release her on parole.

Plaintiff contends that shortly after her arrest on January 7, 2011, she met with Defendant Adamczyk. During this meeting, she alleges she expressed her belief that she was wrongfully detained, and requested his assistance to resolve her complaints. Blatt Decl., ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 3-4. After this meeting, Plaintiff claims she sent a letter to Mr. Adamczyk reiterating her belief that she was wrongly detained. Id. at ¶ 5. This letter has not been adduced for the summary judgment record, and Plaintiff does not submit any documents supporting her alleged contact with Adamczyk shortly after January 7, 2011.

Defendant Adamczyk denies that he had any "contact with Plaintiff prior to May 18, 2011, " and denies that he knew Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail at this time. Adamczyk Decl., ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶¶ 10, 16-17. In fact, Adamczyk states he "was never assigned to supervise Plaintiff on parole." Id. at ¶ 5. Adamczyk also does not recall receiving a letter from Plaintiff in January or February 2011. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Supporting his version of his contacts with Plaintiff, Mr. Adamczyk offers into evidence Plaintiff's Notice of Charges and Hearing with his signature, dated May 18, 2011, as the first documentation connected with Plaintiff's case that bears his signature. ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 10e; ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶ 10. Furthermore, he offers records that prior to May 18, 2011, "Plaintiff's parole documentation was signed by R.A. Coughlin." ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶ 7; ECF No. 38-1, Adamczyk Exhibits A-E.

On or around February 9, 2011, Plaintiff sent a letter addressed "To Whom It May Concern" detailing her belief that she was wrongfully detained. Blatt Letter to Defendants Dated Feb. 9, 2011, ECF No. 34, Exhibit A, 1. Defendants deny any named Defendant personally received or read this letter. Counter Statement of Facts to Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 37, ¶ 31. This letter was received by the PBPP's "Office of Chief Counsel" in Harrisburg, PA. PBPP Letter dated May 9, 2011, ECF No. 34-1, Exhibit C. On May 9, 2011, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole issued a letter to Plaintiff acknowledging receipt of a letter, stating a copy would "be placed in the offender's file and become a permanent part of the record." Id . This letter also states that the issues Plaintiff raised in the letter "must be addressed through the Department of Correction, " not the Board of Probation and Parole. Id.

On or around May 10, 2011, Plaintiff sent another letter addressed "To Whom It May Concern" to PBPP, reiterating her belief that she was wrongfully detained and requesting assistance in correcting her maximum sentence date. Blatt Letter (to PBPP) on May 10, 2011, ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 12, 1. On June 10, 2011, the Board of Probation and Parole acknowledged receipt of the letter as a request for administrative review, and stated it would respond on the merits of the letter as soon as possible. General Counsel Letter Dated June 10, 2011, ECF No. 34-1, Exhibit D. On August 4, 2011, the Board issued a Notice of Board Decision recommitting Plaintiff as a Technical Parole Violator and a Convicted Parole Violator. PBPP Notice of Board Decision, ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 19. On August 8, 2011, the Board answered Plaintiff's May 2011 letter and stated that her "sentence credit toward [her] parole violation maximum sentence date" was "premature" because "at the time [her] appeal was filed, the Board did not determine any sentence credit issue." PBPP Letter (to Blatt), ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 14.

Adamczyk states he met with Plaintiff somewhere between May 18, 2011 and June 3, 2011 to attempt to get her to sign parole hearing forms. Adamczyk Decl., ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶ 11. During this conversation, Defendant alleges Plaintiff brought up her concerns about her maximum sentence date, so he "returned to the parole office and talked to [his] supervisor about her claims. However, [their] review of the file indicated that Plaintiff's sentence had been properly calculated, so no further action was taken." Id . He states the only letter he remembers receiving from Plaintiff is dated June 7, 2011. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. He "did staff this letter with [his] supervisor, who also confirmed that the maximum sentence date shown on the PBPP-10 form was July 25, 2011." Id.

Conversely, Plaintiff claims in her Declaration that on or around June 21, 2011, Defendant Adamczyk visited her in the Allegheny County Jail. Blatt Decl., ECF No. 34-1, ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that she spoke with Adamczyk about her concern she was wrongfully detained and showed him a copy of the relevant sentencing transcript to corroborate her concern.[6] Id . Plaintiff says that Adamczyk "advised Plaintiff that she could resolve the issue once she was transported to SCI Muncy." Concise Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 35, ¶ 34. Defendant disputes this, and states if Plaintiff complained to him about her continued incarceration, he "would have advised Plaintiff that he had no authority to calculate, change or modify her sentence and that her concerns should be raised through the appropriate channels." Counter Statement of Facts to Plaintiff's Concise Statement of Material Facts, ECF No. 37, ¶ 34. See> also Adamczyk Decl., ECF No. 38-1, Exhibit 22, ¶ 14.

On or around July 12, 2011, Plaintiff's attorney, Michael E. Waltman, contacted Defendant Randy Sears, the Deputy Chief Counsel from the DOC's Office of Chief Counsel. Sears Decl., ECF No. 30-2, Exhibit 15, ¶ 3. Attorney Waltman requested that Sears investigate Plaintiff's sentence calculation. In response, on July 27, 2011, Sears sent a letter to Attorney Waltman asserting that "the Department's calculation of [Plaintiff's] sentence includes all of the credit provided by the Court." Sears Letter (to Waltman), ECF No, 30-2, Sears Exhibit A. He also stated that ...


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