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Daryl Thomas v. Robert Buechele

September 18, 2012

DARYL THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT BUECHELE, SGT. F.N.U. HICKS, SGT. C. LONGO, HOPE HALL, YOLANDA SEARLES, GLADYS KRASCINSKI, VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA DELAWARE VALLEY, INC., AND JOHN OSZVART, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Presently before the Court are the motions of defendants for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims that defendants violated his due process rights when he was removed from a halfway house, returned to prison, and denied parole because of a false charge which resulted in his termination from his work release program.*fn1

For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motions will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Daryl Thomas, was an inmate in the custody of the New Jersey Department of Corrections after he was sentenced on September 22, 2006 to an eight-year term. As of February 2008, plaintiff participated in a community release program, residing at a halfway house, defendant Hope Hall, in Camden, New Jersey, which is operated by defendant Volunteers of America Delaware Valley. While residing at Hope Hall, plaintiff worked for Telepoint as a telemarketer. On February 21, 2008, plaintiff was terminated from Telepoint because he was accused of improperly recording and retaining the personal information of Telepoint's customers.

Plaintiff denied his wrongdoing, but he reported his termination to his Hope Hall counselors. Plaintiff claims that he was entitled to five days to find new employment so that he would not be sent back to prison. Plaintiff claims that instead of providing him the five day grace period he was immediately returned to full custody, and defendant Officer Longo charged him with a ".257" violation (violating a condition of any community release program).

Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Central Reception and Assignment Facility ("CRAF"), and a hearing was set for February 27, 2008. However, the hearing was postponed, at plaintiff's request, until March 3, 2008 so that he could obtain witness statements. Ultimately, when plaintiff declined to make a statement and his witnesses refused to testify on his behalf, defendant Hearing Officer Oszvart upheld the .257 charge based on a Hope Hall staff report prepared by defendant Yolanda Searles, which reported Telepoint's accusation that plaintiff wrote down clients' personal information and put the paper with the information in his backpack. On that same day, plaintiff filed an administrative appeal, and on March 4, 2008, defendant Buechele, Assistant Superintendent of CRAF, upheld the charge.

Plaintiff appealed the decision to the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, which then remanded the matter for further proceedings. On October 21, 2008, Hearing Office Maguire found that plaintiff's return to full custody was not warranted because the contract plaintiff signed with Hope Hall indicated he was to receive five days to find new employment. The .257 charge was dismissed.

While plaintiff's appeal of the .257 charge was pending, on August 30, 2008, plaintiff was cited in an unrelated incident with a .306 charge, conduct that disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the correctional facility. Plaintiff filed a series of appeals which ended up in the Appellate Division, but the matter was dismissed for lack of prosecution on May 6, 2009. The .306 charge therefore remained on plaintiff's record.

Plaintiff claims that the improper imposition of the .257 charge resulted in a violation of his due process rights because it caused him to return to full custody and prevented him from obtaining "straight parole." Plaintiff claims that specifically because of the .257 charge, instead of being released on full parole after his October 16, 2008 parole board hearing,*fn2 the parole board granted him conditional parole to a halfway house effective March 9, 2009, where he remained until September 2009.*fn3

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on various bases.*fn4 Primarily, defendants argue that plaintiff's due process rights were not violated because he was not entitled to any specific housing assignment while an inmate of the NJDOC, and even if the .257 charge affected the conditions of parole, his due process rights were not violated because he received a proper hearing and he was actually released earlier than his maximum release date. Plaintiff has opposed defendants' motions.

DISCUSSION

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Plaintiff has brought federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims ...


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