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Garland v. Joseph J. Peters Institute (JJPI)

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2017


         Defendants JJPI and Margulies's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 23 - Granted Defendant Gardner's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 24 - Granted



         Defendants Joseph J. Peters Institute (“JJPI”), Chad Margulies, and Agent Dade Gardner move to dismiss Plaintiff Kendall Garland's Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Because Garland's claims are barred by Heck v. Humphrey and because his Complaint fails to plausibly allege a violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, Defendants' motions are granted, and Garland's Complaint is dismissed.

         I. Background

         Garland alleges the following facts.

         Garland was directed as part of a previous sentence of probation to attend sexual abuse counseling at JJPI.[1] Complaint ¶ 3, ECF No. 3. Margulies was Garland's treatment facilitation or therapist at JJPI. Id. ¶ 5. In early 2014, Margulies informed Garland that Garland's probation officers and JJPI wanted him to take a polygraph examination as part of his treatment. Id. ¶¶ 21, 28. Garland initially refused to sign papers agreeing to take the examination. Id. ¶ 29. After Garland's probation officers learned of his refusal, the officers threatened Garland with revocation of probation if he did not take the examination “and answer every question posed.” Id. ¶¶ 32-34.[2] Further, Margulies told Garland that the polygraph was “mandatory.” Id. ¶ 35. Probation officers told Garland that the polygraph exam would be a “maintenance polygraph that would not ask about the underlying offense.” Id. ¶ 36.

         Garland ultimately agreed to take the polygraph examination. During the exam he was asked “incriminating questions about sexual contact with minors and sexual contact with prostitutes, ” as well as “other incriminating questions.” Id. ¶¶ 52-53. Garland alleges that “[t]he implications of the responses required by the polygraph examination invite[ d] exposure to danger of prosecution for various charges.” Id. ¶ 55. Further,

The potentially incriminating testimony or compelled answers suggest exposure to prosecution, additional evidence or investigations which are completely separate from the basis of the plaintiff's probation revocation and resentence, and also separate from normal probation conditions (and also for which the plaintiff would be completely innocent of).

Id. ¶ 61

         It was determined that Garland failed the exam, and he was discharged from treatment at JJPI.

         Following Garland's discharge from JJPI, a hearing was held on May 30, 2014, in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas before the Honorable Ann M. Butchart, to determine whether Garland had violated his probation. At the hearing, Agent Gardner, a probation officer, testified that Garland was “unsuccessfully discharged from the sex offenders treatment after he failed a polygraph regarding sexual contact with minors and sexual contact with prostitutes.” Tr. 4:7-11, ECF No. 3.[3] According to Agent Gardner, Garland's polygraph failure and resulting discharge from JJPI constituted a violation of his probation. Tr. 4:11-12. Agent Gardner explained that Garland was polygraphed because he “wasn't cooperating or admitting [to his past offenses] in his group[]” sessions. Tr. 9:23-25. Agent Gardner also noted that Garland initially said he did not want to do the polygraph and wouldn't sign the paperwork, but “then we spoke to him and then he went back on and signed the paperwork for the polygraph . . . and then came back and failed.” Tr. 10:4-9.[4]

         In response to Judge Butchart's questions about the reasons for the polygraph, Agent Gardner replied that “[t]he polygraph was administered . . . as a maintenance [polygraph] due to his not admitting to the offense and being in a distance between the offense, ” and because “we were seeing some things in his behavior too.” Tr. 11:20-12:6. Judge Butchart then summarized that, as she understood it, there were two reasons that the polygraph was administered: first, because of Garland's denial of his past offense and, second, “because of inconsistencies between what he was saying and what . . . he [was] believed to be doing.” Tr. 12:7-16. Agent Gardner replied that this was correct. Tr. 12:17. Judge Butchart further observed that if Garland had “passed the polygraph, it would have indicated, as far as the denial went, ” that he could have been successfully discharged from treatment “[b]ecause it would have been determined that this [treatment], in fact, was no longer needed.” Tr. 12:24-13:13.

         Judge Butchart asked if “the fact that [Garland] failed the polygraph would be interpreted to underscore the need to continue treatment . . . as well as affirming the discrepant behaviors, ” to which the Commonwealth's attorney replied “yes.” Tr. 13:15-20. After reviewing Garland's history of treatment at JJPI, beginning in 2007, and observing that Garland had “not been able to complete this program despite three attempts, ” which “causes concern, ” Tr. 28:11-19, Judge Butchart revoked Garland's probation, stating that she had “great concerns concerning particularly the nature of the offense and . . . why [Garland] has been unable to successfully complete treatment.” Tr. 31:3-11.

         In the Complaint, Garland alleges that he was “coerced and compelled to take the [polygraph] exam and to answer every question posed within” and that “the answers compelled as a result of the polygraph were used, sought to be used or attempted to be used at the plaintiff's probation hearing and sentence in an effort to assist in the finding or justification of imposing a harsher sentence.” Compl. ¶¶ 59, 67. He alleges that this conduct violated his Fifth Amendment rights. Garland seeks the following relief: (1) a declarative judgment stating that Defendants violated his Fifth Amendment rights and ...

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