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Hankins v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2017

ROBERT HANKINS, Plaintiff
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          RICHARD P. CONABOY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Background

         Robert Hankins initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Rockview). The Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated and is residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

         By Memorandum and Order dated January 12, 2014, this Court partially granted a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Parole Board); ex-Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and two Parole Board employees, Parole Supervisor Burke and Parole Agent Norma McGinnis (Commonwealth Defendants). See Doc. 31. Specifically, dismissal was entered in favor of former Attorney General Kane and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and with respect to the damage claims against the Parole Board. However, Plaintiff's claims that he was improperly denied parole consideration by Defendants Parole Board, Burke, and McGinnis were allowed to proceed.

         By Memorandum and Order dated March 24, 2014, the Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint was partially granted.[1] See Doc. 37. Dismissal was granted in favor of Counselor Melissa Reed and with regards to the allegations of conspiracy, mishandling of coal, and denial of parole review. In addition, Plaintiff's informal request that this matter be certified as a class action was denied. However, the claim that the Remaining Corrections Defendants were deliberately indifferent to water quality related problems was allowed to proceed.

         By Memorandum and Order dated March 3, 2015, summary judgment was granted in favor of the remaining Corrections Defendants. Specifically, the following SCI-Rockview)officials: Superintendent Marirosa Lamas; Counselor Melissa Reed; Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Horton; ex-Deputy Superintendent Robert Marsh; Tim Miller; Superintendent Assistant Jeffrey Rackovan and John/Jane Doe Maintenance Department employees. See Doc. 73. As a result of the prior decisions of this Court, Plaintiff's surviving claim is his contention that he was improperly denied parole consideration by Commonwealth Defendants Parole Board, Parole Supervisor Burke, and Parole Agent McGinnis.

         Presently pending is a motion seeking entry of summary judgment by the Remaining Commonwealth Defendants. See Doc. 102. They also subsequently filed a suggestion of mootness. See Doc. 112. Plaintiff has opposed both filings.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's remaining claim contends that while incarcerated at SCI-Rockview in May 2011 he was told by his prison counselor that he was due to be seen by the Parole Board. See Doc. 1, p. 4, ¶ 5. However, because of his ongoing placement in the prison's Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), “[i]t was made known to Plaintiff” that he was precluded under Parole Board policy from being afforded an interview.[2] Id. at ¶ 6. Hankins challenges that alleged Parole Board policy and its implementation by the two remaining individual Defendants on the grounds that Pennsylvania state inmates held in the RHU, have a right to apply for parole upon the expiration of their minimum sentence and to have that application fairly considered. Hankins also indicates that the two remaining individual Commonwealth Defendants impeded his ability to submit the required parole application. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as injunctive relief.

         Mootness

         Remaining Defendants have submitted a Suggestion of Mootnes which provides that the Plaintiff has now completed service of his maximum sentence and has been released from incarceration. They conclude that in light of the Plaintiff's release the remaining claims should be dismissed. Hankins acknowledges that he has completed service of his maximum sentence and been released from custody.

         It is well recognized that the adjudicatory power of a federal court depends upon "the continuing existence of a live and acute controversy." Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459 (1974) (emphasis in original). "The rule in federal cases is that an actual controversy must be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Id. at n.10 (citations omitted). "Past exposure to illegal conduct is insufficient to sustain a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief if unaccompanied by continuing, present adverse effects." Rosenberg v. Meese, 622 F.Supp. 1451, 1462 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (citing O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974)); see also Gaeta v. Gerlinski, Civil No. 3:CV-02-465, slip op. at p. 2 (M.D. Pa. May 17, 2002) (Vanaskie, C.J.).

         For instance, an inmate's claim for injunctive and declaratory relief fails to present a case or controversy once the inmate has been transferred. Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1173 (11th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted); see also Carter v. Thompson, 808 F.Supp. 1548, 1555 (M.D. Fla. 1992).

         Plaintiff initiated this action when he was confined at SCI-Rockview and he sought in part injunctive relief. As previously noted, Plaintiff contends that the Remaining Defendants refused to provide him with a parole interview because he was being housed in the RHU. It is undisputed that Hankins has now completed service of his sentence and has been released and there is no indication that Plaintiff will be returned to state custody in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the Complaint to the extent that it seeks ...


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