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Shoffner v. Wenerowicz

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 13, 2015

ROBERT SHOFFNER, et al., Plaintiffs,
MICHAEL WENEROWICZ, et al., Defendants.


GERALD J. PAPPERT, District Judge.

Plaintiffs are former prisoners who were allegedly incarcerated beyond their maximum sentences in violation their constitutional rights. They allege that they were in state prison and subsequently released on parole. When their parole was later revoked, they were awarded "street time" credit that should have reduced the amount of time they were to remain incarcerated. Defendants, however, failed to properly communicate and implement these credits, even though Plaintiffs notified them of the problem through the prison grievance system. Plaintiffs consequently remained in state prison beyond their maximum sentences before ultimately being released.

Plaintiffs seek damages and prospective injunctive relief on behalf of themselves and the members of a putative class. Defendants move to dismiss those claims. The Court grants the motion. Plaintiffs lack standing - and the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction - to assert their claims for prospective injunctive relief. They similarly lack standing to assert claims on behalf of the putative class members. Additionally, the factual allegations in the complaint fail to state a plausible claim for damages on behalf of the Plaintiffs individually. Plaintiffs' claims are dismissed.

Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiffs Robert Shoffner, Robert Thornton, Daniel Myers, and Steven Stauffer assert identical claims on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated present and future inmates of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (the "DOC"). ( See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 24, Doc. No. 1.)

The dispute centers on a change in state law regarding parolees who are recommitted because of a parole violation. Effective January 2, 2013, Pennsylvania law changed to allow the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (the "Board"), in its discretion, to credit a parolee "for the time spent at liberty on parole" to reduce the remaining amount of time the parolee would need to serve on the relevant sentence. 61 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6138(a)(2.1). This is known as getting credit for "street time." (Compl. ¶ 2.) The prior law did not provide the Board with this discretion. Rather, it mandated that a recommitted parole violator would have to serve the full remainder of the sentence the parolee would have had to serve had parole not been granted. ( Id. )

Plaintiffs allege that they were in DOC custody and were released on parole. ( See Compl. ¶ 42.) They subsequently violated their parole and were recommitted into the custody of the DOC. ( Id. ¶ 44.) When the Board revoked their parole, it awarded them credit for their street time. ( Id. ¶ 45.) The paperwork awarding them this credit was signed by Defendant Kimberly Barkley ("Barkley"), the Board Secretary. ( Id. ¶¶ 19, 46.) Barkley, however, did not properly notify the DOC about the Plaintiffs' awards of street time credit. ( Id. ¶ 47.)

Once re-incarcerated, Plaintiffs filed grievances regarding the DOC's failure to reduce their remaining sentences by the amount of street time credit they had received from the Board. ( Id. ¶ 51.) Defendant Michael Wenerowicz, the facility manager at State Correctional Institute - Graterford ("SCI - Graterford"), signed off on Plaintiffs' grievances. ( Id. ¶¶ 18, 52.) These grievances were later forwarded to Defendant Wendy Shaylor, the SCI - Graterford grievance coordinator. ( Id. ¶¶ 20, 54.) Wenerowicz and Shaylor, however, "failed to take action or took insufficient actions to ensure Plaintiffs... received the time credit they were owed." ( Id. ¶ 55.) As a result, Plaintiffs were held in custody beyond their maximum sentences. ( Id. ¶ 56.) Plaintiffs were later released from custody. ( Id. ¶ 58.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by holding them in custody beyond their maximum sentences.[1] They sue Defendants in both their individual and their official capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ( Id. ¶¶ 30, 31.) With regard to Defendants in their individual capacities, Plaintiffs demand money damages. ( Id. ) With regard to Defendants in their official capacities, Plaintiffs demand declaratory and injunctive relief to "ensure that they are not on parole under supervision of the Board and to ensure defendants establish an adequate system to deal with" awards of street time credit. ( Id. ¶¶ 60, 71, 72.)

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Mot. Dismiss, Doc. No. 5.) Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the Defendants' motion. (Opp'n Br., Doc. No. 7.)

Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the factual allegations in the complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). When confronted with a 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must conduct a two-step analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the district court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11. Then, it "must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). "[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id. at 210-11 (citation omitted).

When deciding a motion to dismiss, the court can consider "the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The district court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff...." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008); see also Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) ("All allegations in the ...

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