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Connolly v. Arroyo

August 23, 2007

DAVID CONNOLLY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RICHARD ARROYO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

In this § 1983 action, plaintiff David Connolly (―Connolly‖), proceeding pro se, alleges that his parole officer and various members of the New Jersey State Parole Board (the ―Board‖) violated his constitutional rights by conducting an unlawful and unfair parole revocation proceeding. Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual background is obtained from the complaint and documents attached to it.*fn1 Because the complaint and accompanying documents span more than two hundred pages, the Court recites only those facts necessary to decide defendants' motion to dismiss.

On May 18, 2004, Connolly was released on parole from South Woods State Prison, but a warrant was issued for his arrest in February, 2005 for failure to report as directed and failure to obtain approval to change residences. Connolly was taken into custody on April 12, 2005 and appeared for a parole violation hearing before officer Andrew Demko (―Demko‖) on May 5, 2005, at which Richard Arroyo (―Arroyo‖), Connolly's parole officer, testified. In a written report dated May 31, 2005, Demko sustained the violations charged against Connolly and recommended that the Board revoke his parole and establish a future eligibility term (―FET‖) of twelve months. On June 1, 2005, a panel of the Board adopted Demko's recommendation.

Connolly filed an administrative appeal of the Board's decision, claiming that Arroyo and Demko had already decided to recommend revoking his parole prior to the hearing. Connolly also claimed that Arroyo's conduct at the violation hearing violated the Board's Code of Conduct. However, the Board's Appeals Unit was unable to review the May 5, 2005 hearing because the Board lost the tape recording of the proceeding. In a letter dated November 4, 2005, Edward Oskay (―Oskay‖), Chief of the Board's Appeals Unit, informed Connolly that under the circumstances, the Board's June 1, 2005 decision would be vacated, and it would conduct a de novo final parole revocation hearing. Connolly remained in custody pending a second hearing, which took place the next month, on December 21, 2005.

The Board once again decided to revoke Connolly's parole and establish a FET of twelve months. Connolly filed another administrative appeal. In a letter dated May 17, 2006, Oskay advised Connolly that the Board's Appeals Unit had again decided to vacate the Board's decision to revoke his parole but did not specify the reasons behind the decision to vacate. Oskay's letter stated that the Board would schedule a third final parole revocation hearing as soon as possible. Connolly remained in custody.

On September 29, 2006, before a third revocation hearing took place, Connolly filed this federal lawsuit, claiming violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The complaint alleges that Arroyo intentionally sabotaged Connolly's revocation hearing by, inter alia, providing false information at the revocation hearing, ―[p]readjudicating Plaintiff with Hearing Officer Demko prior to receiving his Statutory Hearing, refusal to contact Plaintiff's Witnesses, and deliberate withholding of Plaintiff's Hearing Package . . . .‖ (Compl. at 6, ¶ 1.) The complaint asserts claims against various Board employees for their failure to train and supervise Arroyo and their failure to conduct an adequate investigation into Arroyo's misconduct. The complaint also names several employees of the Board's central office as defendants, claiming that they are vicariously liable for the actions of Board employees.

Connolly was released from prison on March 22, 2007, having completed the maximum prison term for his underlying conviction (burglary). (Final Discharge, docket entry # 28.) Connolly never received a third revocation hearing prior to maxing out, and the parties dispute who is to blame for the delay.

Defendants have moved to dismiss his complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and Williams v. Consovoy, 453 F.3d 173 (3d Cir. 2006), preclude Connolly from obtaining § 1983 relief because he did not receive a ―favorable termination‖ of the Board's decision to revoke his parole before filing suit and his success in this § 1983 action would necessarily demonstrate that his parole had been unlawfully revoked.

II. STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must ―contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory.‖ Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 (2007) (quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1006 (7th Cir. 1984)). However, pro se litigants are given ―greater leeway where they have not followed the technical rules of pleading and procedure.‖ Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 153 n.2 (3d Cir. 1993).

III. ANALYSIS

Defendants correctly argue that Heck and Williams are critical to the determination of whether Connolly is barred from ...


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