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Williams v. Consovoy

June 29, 2006

JOHN C. WILLIAMS, APPELLANT
v.
ANDREW CONSOVOY; ROLANDO GOMEZ-RIVERA; RACHEL TORRES-CHOWANIEC; RUBY WASHINGTON; DON E. GIBBONS; KEVIN MAHONEY; NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.C. Civil No. 01-cv-01809). District Judge: Honorable Mary Little Cooper.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Van Antwerpen, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR34.1(a) June 29, 2006

Before: BARRY, VAN ANTWERPEN, and JOHN R. GIBSON,*fn1 Circuit Judges

OPINION OF THE COURT

Before us is John Williams's appeal from the District Court's dismissal of his claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a New Jersey parole officer and certain members of the New Jersey State Parole Board ("Parole Board") for, respectively, arrest and false incarceration, and failure to properly investigate the likelihood he would commit a crime if released on parole. Williams also appeals from the District Court's grant of summary judgment on his § 1983 claim against a private psychologist engaged by the Parole Board to perform a psychological evaluation. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and for the following reasons, we will affirm.

I.

In 1993, Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual assault against a ten-year old girl, N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2b, pursuant to a plea agreement. In 1995, Williams was sentenced to a 10-year period of incarceration with no period of parole ineligibility, but in 1996, Williams was released on parole.

In 1997, Parole Officer Kevin Mahoney arrested Williams as a parole violator for Williams's failure to obtain approval for a change in his employment and residence and for failure to comply with the registration provisions of Megan's Law. On November 26, 1997, an Adult Panel of the New Jersey State Parole Board ("Parole Board") composed of Andrew Consovoy and Rolando Gomez-Rivera revoked Williams's parole. In reaching this decision, the Parole Board considered and rejected the report of Officer Diane Formica, who recommended Williams's parole be continued because he had expressed remorse for his failure to comply with the conditions of his parole. The Parole Board then declared Williams ineligible for parole until 1998.

In April 1998, an Adult Panel of the Parole Board -- this time consisting of Rachel Torres-Chowaniec and Ruby Washington -- again evaluated Williams for parole. Before rendering a decision, the Parole Board ordered a psychological evaluation of Williams.

This evaluation was performed by Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist employed at the time by Correctional Behavior Solutions, a private company with which New Jersey contracted to provide mental health services. In the course of his evaluation, Gibbons performed a clinical interview and administered various psychological and personality examinations. Relying in part on Gibbons's evaluation, the Parole Board denied parole.*fn2

On April 18, 2001, Williams filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the District Court, asserting four separate claims. First, Williams alleged Mahoney had seized him without probable cause and caused him to be arrested and falsely incarcerated, which seizure was in violation of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments. Second, Williams alleged Consovoy and Gomez-Rivera, on or before November 27, 1997, failed and refused to conduct an adequate investigation into whether Williams was likely to commit a crime if released on parole and caused him to be falsely incarcerated, which failure was deliberately indifferent to Williams's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Third, Williams alleged Torres-Chowaniec and Washington, on or before April 27, 1999, failed to adequately investigate whether Williams was likely to commit another crime if released on parole, which failure caused Williams's false incarceration and was deliberately indifferent to his Eighth Amendment rights. Finally, Williams alleged that Gibbons had reported false and misleading information intended to cause the Parole Board to deny Williams parole, which denial resulted in Williams's false imprisonment and was deliberately indifferent to Williams's Eighth Amendment rights.

Gomez-Rivera, Torres-Chowaniec, Washington, and Mahoney moved to dismiss Williams's complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The District Court granted the motion with respect to Mahoney and Gomez-Rivera on the ground that Williams did not have a cognizable § 1983 claim against them.*fn3

Citing Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the District Court reasoned that William's claim was uncognizable because ยง 1983 actions in which prisoners allege that a parole revocation decision was constitutionally infirm are challenges to the fact or duration of their confinement and are collateral attacks on state convictions that are ...


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