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Greene v. Tice

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 22, 2018



          Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

Michael Greene, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, (SCI-Huntingdon), filed this pro se habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter was initially assigned to the Honorable Edwin M. Kosik of this Court. Named as Respondent is Superintendent Tice of SCI-Huntingdon. Service of the Petition was previously ordered.

         In May 2006, Petitioner was convicted of aggravated and simple assault following a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. As a result, Greene was sentenced to life in prison as a three strikes offender. Following a direct appeal, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania overturned Petitioner's sentence on the grounds that Greene's prior convictions could not be considered for the three strikes necessary to impose a life sentence. Greene was resentenced on December 15, 2010 to an aggregate one hundred and two (102) to two hundred and forty (240) month term of imprisonment. Petitioner's maximum release date is July 21, 2024. The pending action does not challenge the legality of Greene's conviction or sentence. See Doc. 1, ¶ 8.

         Petitioner was considered for, and denied parole on July 30, 2014; May 2, 2015; and March 31, 2016. In the March 31, 2016 determination, Petitioner was denied parole based upon multiple factors. See Doc. 11-1, p. 8. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Parole Board) cited the following reasons in support of its decision: a risks and needs assessment, reports, evaluations and assessments found that Greene posed a risk to the community if released; a negative recommendation by the prosecuting attorney; and the inmate's lack of remorse for his crime.

         Petitioner claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the grounds that the Parole Board improperly denied him parole and violated his due process rights. He generally contends that the Parole Board acted in an arbitrary and vindictive manner because it failed to consider his lack of institutional misconducts, program completions, and positive achievements while incarcerated. It is also asserted that a Parole Board member told Greene that he would only be paroled if he dropped his pending state court petition pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).


         This action will be construed as solely challenging the March 31, 2016 adverse determination by the Parole Board. See Cameron v, . Kerestes, No. 1:13-CV-2159, 2014 WL 201078 *4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 16, 2014)(Rambo, J.)(one year limitations period of Section 2244(d) of Title 28 of the United States Code applies to a habeas corpus action challenging a parole decision)

         Title 28, United States Code § 2241 vests the federal district courts with jurisdiction to grant a writ of habeas corpus to persons in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). It is well-settled that “there is no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence.” Greenholtz v. Inmates of Nebraska Penal & Correctional Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979). Likewise, the Pennsylvania parole statute does not create a liberty interest in the right to be paroled. Rodgers v. Parole Agent SCI-Frackville, Wech, 916 F.Supp. 474, 476-77 (E.D. Pa. 1996); McCrery v. Mark, 823 F.Supp. 288, 294 (E.D. Pa. 1993); Thorpe v. Grillo, 80 Fed.Appx. 215 (3d Cir. 2003)(because there is no constitutional right to parole, any substantive due process claim is foreclosed); Perry v. Vaughn, 2005 WL 736633 at *10 (E.D. Pa. March 31, 2005).

         However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has also held that:

[E]ven if a state statute does not give rise to a liberty interest in parole release under Greenholtz, once a state institutes a parole system all prisoners have a liberty interest flowing directly from the due process clause in not being denied parole for arbitrary or constitutionally impermissible reasons.

Block v. Potter, 631 F.2d 233, 236 (3d Cir. 1980). Accordingly, even where a state statute grants discretion to the state parole board to condition or completely deny parole, it may not permit “totally arbitrary parole decisions founded on impermissible criteria.” Id. Consequently, a federal court may review a decision by a state parole board for an abuse of discretion. Id. Upon such review, relief will only be available if an applicant can show that parole was arbitrarily denied based on some impermissible reason such as “race, religion, or political beliefs, ” or that the parole board made its determination based on “frivolous criteria with no rational relationship to the purpose of parole . . . .” Id. at 236 n.2.

         Here, there is no allegation that Greene was denied parole on the basis of his race, religion, or ethnicity. As previously discussed, Greene had advanced a claim that the Parole Board failed to apply proper criteria in rendering its decision to deny parole. The parole decision noted that Greene, who has a lengthy criminal history, including approximately 35 arrests and convictions in the State of Massachusetts, had been interviewed and a review of his file had taken place. See Doc. 11-1, p. 8. Clearly, Petitioner's criminal record was an appropriate and relevant factor to be considered by the Parole Board in assessing Greene's suitability for release.

         Additionally, the Parole Board stated that a risk and needs assessment, evaluations, and reports regarding the Petitioner indicated that he would pose a threat to the community if released. Such reports/assessments/evaluations were a proper source of information to be considered by the Parole Board in reaching its decision. Likewise, an unfavorable recommendation by the prosecuting attorney was a relevant and appropriate report to be relied upon in making a parole eligibility determination. It ...

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