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Wilson v. Hoerner

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 21, 2017

DENNIS HOERNER, Probation Officer Supervisor, JEFFREY BOOZER, Probation Officer, MARY ROSETTA, Manager for Probation and Parole, JEFFREY RONEY, BRYAN SNYDER, and DELAWARE COUNTY, Defendants.


          Cynthia Reed Eddy, United States Magistrate Judge.

         This is a civil rights action initiated pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the above-captioned Defendants violated Plaintiff Philbert Wilson's civil rights when he was detained for sixty-four days in the Lawrence County Jail without ever receiving the applicable revocation hearings to which state probationers are entitled. Pending before the Court are motions for summary judgement filed by Defendant Jeffrey Roney [ECF No. 149], Defendants Delaware County and Bryan Snyder [ECF No. 156] and Defendants Jeffrey Boozer and Dennis Hoerner. [ECF No. 178][2]. The matters have been fully briefed and are ripe for review.

         For the reasons that follow, the motions will be denied.

         I. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise stated, based upon our review of the record, the following facts are not in dispute.

         In April 2001, Plaintiff was convicted in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas following a jury trial. Approximately eight years later, Plaintiff began serving a 72-month term of state-supervised probation. On May 12, 2013, while still on probation, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (“PBPP”) issued a 48-hour detainer directing officers from the City of New Castle Police Department to seize, arrest, and transport Plaintiff to the Lawrence County Jail based on technical violations.[3] The next day, May 13, 2013, the Delaware County Special Probation division of the PBPP issued a second detainer against Plaintiff. This second detainer did not have an expiration date, but pursuant to PBPP rules would expire after 14 days.

         On May 14, 2013, a Technical Violation Arrest Report was prepared by the PBPP. It was signed by Plaintiff's Parole Agent, Defendant Jeffrey Boozer, and Boozer's supervisor, Dennis Hoerner. On the PBPP-331 form, Hoerner did not “check” the box for “schedule Gagnon hearing.” Hoerner and Boozer testified that “[i]t would be the board's responsibility to request a Gagnon I”). Regardless, Hoerner chose not to check it because he and Boozer were unaware “as to what the process was to schedule a Gagnon I hearing in Delaware County.” On May 14, 2013, Defendant Boozer contacted the office of the Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole (“DCAPP”) to seek assistance in obtaining a bench warrant and scheduling a Gagnon hearing to pursue the alleged technical violations of Wilson's parole. Defendant Boozer testified that in his experience as a parole agent, an individual from the sentencing county's adult probation office typically facilitates communications between the PBPP and the sentencing court. He also testified that in his experience as a parole agent, the sentencing county's adult probation office would schedule any Gagnon hearings. A representative of DCAPP informed Boozer that Defendant Roney, Supervisor with the DCAPP, would be his point of contact at the DCAPP for transports and assisting with scheduling Gagnon hearings. Boozer had never supervised probationers in Delaware County before.

         On May 16, 2013, Defendant Boozer spoke to Defendant Roney and Roney agreed to assist. Boozer sent a Request for Court Detainer to Judge Hazel of the Delaware Court of Common Pleas, recommending that Plaintiff be held in confinement pending disposition of technical violations with “possible charges pending.” This request was also signed by Hoerner in his capacity as Boozer's supervisor. That same day, a bench warrant was signed by a “back-up” judge of that same court, which provided that Lawrence County Jail's warden, Brian Covert, was commanded to take Plaintiff into custody based on violation of probation/parole as reported by Boozer. On May 22, 2013, Boozer “rec'd [sic] email back from Supervisor Roney. He said he just got the signed Detainer today and w/fax [sic] it to me.”

         Although Rule 150(A)(5)(b) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that a hearing be held within 72 hours of the execution of a bench warrant, Plaintiff did not receive any such hearing. Plaintiff also did not receive a preliminary hearing within 14 days of his detention on the Board warrant as set forth in 37 Pa. Code § 71.2(3).

         After more than two weeks of being detained in the Lawrence County Jail without ever receiving a hearing, Plaintiff was informed by Boozer on May 29, 2013 that Delaware County would be scheduling a Gagnon hearing[4] for Plaintiff. That same day, Plaintiff received a Notice of Charges and Hearing form from PBPP stating that “this notice is in reference to your upcoming: GAGNON I HEARING.” However, no Gagnon I hearing was ever scheduled or held, and Plaintiff remained detained in the Lawrence County Jail for another month and a half.

         On May 29, 2013, Hoerner e-mailed Roney, reporting pressure by Lawrence County about Wilson still being there and asking if Delaware County would facilitate transport or if the Board needed to pursue on their end, and was informed that someone from Lawrence County needed to contact the District Attorney's Office and provided the name and telephone number to that person to set up extradition. As of May 31, Boozer's notes state: “Right now it does not appear that P w/be charged w/any crimes.”

         The record evidence further shows that Defendant Snyder, a Sergeant at the Delaware County Sheriff's Office who receives calls regarding extradition transports to Delaware County, failed to respond to any of Boozer's or other Lawrence County employees' calls regarding Plaintiff. In particular, Ms. King, an employee in the Records Department at the Lawrence County Jail in 2013, called Sgt. Snyder and left a message on June 12, 2013 about Wilson's transfer. Ms. King then made another call on June 25, 2013 because Plaintiff's transfer had not yet occurred and Plaintiff had still not received his Gagnon I hearing. Boozer followed with a call on June 28, 2013, but the “phone rang off the hook.” Boozer again contacted Roney, informing Roney that both he and personnel from the Lawrence County Jail had left several messages with the Sherriff's Office, specifically to Sgt. Snyder, without any response. Ms. King made another call on July 2, 2013, when Sgt. Snyder finally answered, whereupon she explained that a petition hearing for Wilson had been scheduled. Snyder did not return these numerous messages while on vacation, and Delaware County appears not to have implemented a written policy or procedure with respect to supervising and/or scheduling hearings to ensure that its employee's vacations do not impact the timely transportation of probationers. It is unclear from the record whether Sgt. Snyder was unaware that Lawrence County wanted to transport Plaintiff Philbert Wilson or failed to act upon several attempts of contact by the Lawrence County Jail and Defendant Jeffrey Boozer.

         About six weeks after Plaintiff was initially detained, on June 25, 2013, Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County. A hearing was held on this petition by President Judge Dominick Motto on July 15, 2013. At the hearing, Judge Motto noted that Plaintiff had not received Gagnon hearings and determined that Plaintiff's continued detention in the Lawrence County Jail was unlawful under Pa. R. Crim. P. 150. Consequently, Judge Motto ordered that the warden immediately release Plaintiff.

         II. The Summary Judgment Standard

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To assess whether the moving party has satisfied this standard, the court does not engage in credibility determinations, Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639, 643 n.3 (3d Cir. 1998), and views the facts and draws all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence, or the lack thereof, which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). Material facts are those “that could affect the outcome” of the proceeding, and “a dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Pearson v. Prison Health Service, 850 F.3d 526, 533-34 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011)). Once that burden has been met, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in the complaint, but must “go beyond the pleadings and by [their] own affidavits, or by the ...

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