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Staton v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

September 20, 2017

Shawn Staton, Petitioner
v.
Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, Respondent

          Submitted: April 28, 2017

          BEFORE: HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, President Judge HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge HONORABLE JOSEPH M. COSGROVE, Judge

          OPINION

          JOSEPH M. COSGROVE, Judge.

         Shawn Staton (Staton) petitions for review of an order of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Board) denying his request for administrative relief and affirming its recalculation decision. Staton contends the Board improperly extended his maximum sentence. His appointed counsel, James L. Best, Esquire (Counsel) has petitioned for leave to withdraw his representation. Upon review, we grant Counsel's request and affirm the Board's order.

         On November 9, 2009, Staton was sentenced to three to six years in state prison. His minimum sentence date was March 24, 2012 and his maximum sentence date was March 24, 2015. (Certified Record (C.R.) at 1.)

         On March 28, 2012, Staton was released on parole (C.R. at 9), but on November 20, 2014, he was arrested for possession with intent to deliver (PWID). (C.R. at 13.) As a result, the Board detained Staton as an alleged parole violator. Staton was convicted of PWID, and on February 20, 2015, he was sentenced to one to two years in state prison with consecutive probation. (C.R. at 53.)

         Staton waived his right to a revocation hearing and admitted that he was a convicted parole violator, causing the Board to recommit him as such. (C.R. at 57-59, 68.) Staton made a request for administrative relief, challenging the addition of backtime to his sentence. (C.R. at 70.) The Board responded that Staton's sentence had been correctly recalculated to reflect he was not given credit for his street time, [1] and that the Board had authority to do so pursuant to 61 Pa.C.S. § 6138(a)(2). (C.R. at 74.) Staton then filed a petition for administrative review, alleging, inter alia, (1) that the Board does not have authority to alter his judicially-imposed sentence beyond his original maximum term; (2) that the Board "unilaterally breached" Staton's "contract" with the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, as his initial sentence was entered into pursuant to a plea agreement; and (3) that his sentence was increased in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment and Double Jeopardy Clauses of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. (C.R. at 70.)

         Counsel filed a petition to withdraw as counsel and a Turner/Finley letter.[2] This Court, however, determined Counsel failed to address each issue Staton wished to raise on appeal and, in an unreported opinion, denied Counsel's initial request to withdraw. See Staton v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, (Pa. Cmwlth. No. 1765 C.D. 2015, filed January 4, 2017), 2017 WL 33726. Counsel has filed a new petition to withdraw and no-merit letter as directed by this Court, which we now review.

         DISCUSSION

         We first consider the technical prerequisites imposed upon appointed counsel who wishes to withdraw his or her representation.

Turner/Finley counsel must review the case zealously. Turner/Finley counsel must then submit a "no-merit" letter to the trial court, or brief on appeal to this Court, detailing the nature and extent of counsel's diligent review of the case, listing the issues which the petitioner wants to have reviewed, explaining why and how those issues lack merit, and requesting permission to withdraw.
Counsel must also send to the petitioner: (1) a copy of the "no-merit" letter/brief; (2) a copy of counsel's petition to withdraw; and (3) a statement advising petitioner of the right to proceed pro se or by new counsel.
If counsel fails to satisfy the foregoing technical prerequisites of Turner/Finley, the court will not reach the merits of the underlying claims but, rather, will merely deny counsel's request to withdraw.

Zerby v. Shanon, 964 A.2d 956, 960 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2009) (quoting Commonwealth v. Wrecks, 931 A.2d 717, 720-21 ...


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