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Hart v. Tarrant

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 30, 2019

JOHN HART, Plaintiff,
THOMAS TARRANT, et al., Defendants.


          JOSHUA D. WOLSON, J.

         In this civil rights action, John Hart alleges that two Pennsylvania parole officers, Thomas Tarrant and Kimberly Ann Mackey, violated his Due Process and Eighth Amendment rights by bringing him to an untimely parole revocation hearing. Hart also claims that Officer Tarrant made false statements at Hart's revocation hearing in order to convince the hearing examiner that the revocation hearing was timely. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that Hart has failed to provide any evidence to establish the material elements of his claims. Additionally, qualified immunity and sovereign immunity protect the Officers from liability in this action.


         A. Parole Revocation Hearing

         On November 16, 2011, Hart was arrested in Philadelphia on multiple charges while on parole. The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (“Board”) lodged a detainer against Hart based on his new arrest. Four years later, on November 12, 2015, a jury in Philadelphia convicted Hart of harassment and stalking. On December 1, 2015, Officer Mackey authorized Officer Tarrant to start the process of revoking Hart's parole.

         Before a parolee is recommitted as a convicted violator, “[a] revocation hearing shall be held within 120 days from the date the Board received official verification of the plea of guilty or nolo contendere or of the guilty verdict . . .” 37 Pa. Code § 71.4(1). As part of this process, on December 1, 2015, Officer Tarrant requested official verification of Hart's new conviction via email sent to Philadelphia County. Officer Tarrant did not receive a response and sent a second email on February 1, 2016, again requesting official verification of Hart's new conviction. Officer Tarrant's second email also went unanswered. On February 19, 2016, at Officer Mackey's direction, Officer Tarrant went in person to recover the official verification from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

         On March 1, 2016, Officer Tarrant met with Hart and gave him notice of the Board's intent to bring him to a parole revocation hearing. At the revocation hearing on April 5, 2016, the hearing examiner asked Officer Tarrant when he obtained official verification of Hart's conviction, to which Officer Tarrant replied, “[i]n February, I believe.” (ECF No. 26, Ex. 5, 19:7-20:1.) The hearing examiner subsequently recommitted Hart as a convicted parole violator.

         B. Appeal Of Parole Revocation Decision

         Following his sentencing, Hart filed a timely request for administrative relief from the hearing examiner's decision to recommit him as a convicted parole violator. On October 3, 2016, the Board affirmed its revocation decision. On October 24, 2016, Hart appealed the Board's decision to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. On June 2, 2017, the Commonwealth Court held that the Board had not met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the revocation hearing was timely pursuant to 37 Pa. Code § 71.4. See Hart v. Pa. Bd. Of Probation and Parole, No. 1769 C.D. 2016, 2017 WL 2391957, at *3 (Pa. Commw. Ct. June 2, 2017). Therefore, the Commonwealth Court reversed the Board's decision. The Commonwealth Court noted that although the Trial Disposition and Dismissal Form that Officer Tarrant presented at the revocation hearing constituted official verification, it did not contain any indication of when Officer Tarrant had received it. Rather, the form had only a print date of November 12, 2015. Id. The Commonwealth Court also observed that the Board relied on Form PBPP-253C in determining that the revocation hearing was timely but that that Form was not admitted into evidence in proceedings before the Board. Id. at 7. As a result of the Commonwealth Court's decision, Hart was released from custody on June 16, 2017, after having served two hundred and twelve days for his parole violation.

         C. Procedural History

         On March 6, 2018, Hart filed an Amended Complaint, in which he brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. He alleges that Officers Tarrant and Mackey infringed on his Due Process and Eight Amendment rights by holding an untimely revocation hearing in violation of 37 Pa. Code § 71.4. He also asserts an intentional misrepresentation claim, in which he alleges that Officer Tarrant intentionally mispresented at the revocation hearing that he received notice of Hart's new conviction in February 2016. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, which are ripe for disposition.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) permits a party to seek, and a court to enter, summary judgment “if the movant shows 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). “[T]he plain language of Rule 56[(a)] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quotations omitted). In ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must “view the facts and draw reasonable inferences ‘in the light most favorable to the party opposing the [summary judgment] motion.'” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (quotation omitted). However, “[t]he non-moving party may not merely deny the allegations in the moving party's pleadings; instead he must show where in the record there exists a genuine dispute over a material fact.” Doe v. Abington Friends Sch., 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). The movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the non-moving party fails to make such a showing. Dodson v. Coatesville Hosp. Corp., No. 18-3065, __ Fed. App'x __, 2019 WL 2338461, at *2 n.6 (3d Cir. June 3, 2019) (quotation omitted). “When confronted with cross-motions for summary judgment ‘the court must rule on each party's motion on an individual and separate basis, determining, for each side, whether a judgment may be entered in accordance with the Rule 56 standard.'” Canal Ins. Co. v. Underwriters at Lloyd's London, 333 F.Supp.2d 352, 353 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 2004), aff'd, 435 F.3d 431 (3d Cir. 2006).

         III. ...

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