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Bethea v. Bickell

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 13, 2015

GREGORY SCOTT BETHEA, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT BICKELL, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN E. SCHWAB, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction.

In this habeas corpus case, the petitioner, Gregory Scott Bethea, claims that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole denied him parole in violation of his right to substantive due process and improperly calculated his maximum parole-violation sentence in violation of his right to equal protection. Because Bethea has been paroled, his claim based on the denial of parole is moot, and his claim that the Board improperly calculated his sentence in violation of his right to equal protection is without merit. Thus, we recommend that the petition be denied and that the case file be closed.

II. Background and Procedural History.

While still a state prisoner, Bethea, proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In accordance with Mason v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000), we warned Bethea of the effects of filing a § 2254 petition in light of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and we directed him to complete an election form, indicating an election to have the petition construed and ruled upon under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or to withdraw the current petition. Bethea responded by stating that he wished to proceed under 28 U.S.C. §2254, but he wanted to amend his petition to add an additional claim. Given his election, we granted Bethea leave to file an amended petition, and Bethea filed an amended petition, which we ordered served on the respondent. The respondent responded to the amended petition, and Bethea filed a reply. In his reply, Bethea pointed out that the respondent only responded to the claim in his amended petition and did not respond to the claim in his original petition. This is understandable because the respondent was served with only the amended petition. An amended petition completely replaces the original petition, and when the court granted Bethea leave to file an amended petition we expected him to include all his claims in the amended petition. Bethea misunderstood: he included one claim in his amended petition, but he also intended to proceed on the claim in his original petition as well. Given this misunderstanding, we granted Bethea leave to file a second amended petition that contained all his claims.

On October 29, 2013, Bethea filed his second amended petition raising two claims: (1) the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Board) violated his right to equal protection by improperly calculating his sentence; and (2) the Board denied him substantive due process by denying him parole. After the respondent responded to the second amended petition and Bethea filed a reply, Bethea notified the Court that his address had changed. By an Order dated October 14, 2014, because it appeared that Bethea had been released from custody, we directed the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing whether one or both of Bethea's claims are moot. The respondent filed a document titled as a motion to dismiss arguing that one of Bethea's claims is moot, and we construed that document as the respondent's supplemental brief. Bethea then filed a supplemental brief regarding the mootness issue.

The habeas petition is ripe for decision, and, as discussed below, we conclude that Bethea's claim based on the denial of parole is moot and his claim based on the Board's calculation of his sentence is without merit.

III. Discussion.

A. Bethea's Claim that the Board Denied him Substantive Due Process by Denying him Parole is Moot.

By a decision dated June 24, 2014, the Board decided to parole Bethea, and it noted that Bethea's parole-violation maximum date is January 8, 2017. Doc. 31-1 at 2-4. On August 7, 2014, Bethea was actually released on parole. Id. at 6. Because Bethea has been released on parole, his claim that the Board violated substantive due process by denying him parole is moot.

Article III of the Constitution provides that the judicial power of the United States shall extend to "cases" and "controversies." U.S. Constitution, art. III, §2. "[F]ederal courts may adjudicate only actual, ongoing cases or controversies, " Lewis v. Cont'l Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472, 477 (1990), and "[i]t is a basic principle of Article III that a justiciable case or controversy must remain extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed.'" United States v. Juvenile Male, 131 S.Ct. 2860, 2864 (2011)(quoting Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 67 (1997)). "Federal courts may not decide questions that cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before them' or give opinion[s] advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.'" Chafin v. Chafin, 133 S.Ct. 1017, 1023 (2013)(quoting Lewis, 494 U.S. at 477). "A case becomes moot-and therefore no longer a Case' or Controversy' for purposes of Article III-when the issues presented are no longer "live" or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.'" Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 133 S.Ct. 721, 726-27 (2013)(quoting Murphy v. Hunt, 455 U.S. 478, 481 (1982)).

A habeas corpus petition challenging an underlying criminal conviction is not rendered moot by the petitioner's release from custody after its filing so long as there are collateral consequences that flow from the criminal conviction. Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S.1, 12 (1998). With respect to his parole claim, Bethea is not challenging his conviction or sentence. Rather, he is challenging the Board's denial of parole and he seeks immediate release on parole. But since Bethea has been released on parole-the very relief that he requested in his petition-this court cannot provide him any relief on this habeas claim. So, as the respondent argues and as Bethea concedes, this claim is now moot. See Razzoli v. FCI Allenwood, 200 F.Appx. 166, 169 (3d Cir. 2006)(stating that "[t]hrough the passage of time Razzoli has been released on parole, thereby obtaining the relief that he sought through habeas" and holding that Razzoli's claims that his release on parole was illegally delayed are moot).

B. Bethea Is Not Entitle to Habeas Corpus Relief as to his Claim that the Board Violated his Right to Equal Protection in Calculating his Maximum Sentence and Not Granting him Credit for Time Served on Parole.

Although Bethea has been released on parole, the Board has calculated his parole-violation maximum date as January 8, 2017. The respondent does not argue that Bethea's claim regarding the Board's calculation of his sentence is moot, and given that under that calculation Bethea will remain under parole supervision until January 8, 2017, we conclude that Bethea's claim based on the Board's calculation of his sentence is not moot. Nevertheless, Bethea is not entitled to relief on that claim.

1. Bethea's Parole and Criminal History and the Board's Calculation of His Parole-Revocation Sentence.

Bethea claims that the Board failed to credit his sentence for the time from November 12, 2009 until February 18, 2011. To understand the basis for Bethea's claim, we briefly set forth the relevant history surrounding Bethea's criminal and ...


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