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Miner v. Goord

January 21, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge


I. Introduction

Pending is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Leroy Miner has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted and the entire case is dismissed.

II. Facts

Miner was formerly an inmate in the custody of the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). He was convicted in 1997 for the crime of burglary in the third degree and sentenced to an indeterminate term of 2 to 4 years. (Def.'s SMF ¶1; Dkt. No. 25.) Thereafter, Miner elected to participate in the DOCS' shock program, a boot camp style program which allows eligible offenders to earn release on parole supervision in six months. (Id. at ¶2.) Following his release on parole, Miner was arrested in Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶3.) Miner served a Pennsylvania sentence during which New York lodged a detainer against him, but New York eventually released him to parole supervision again. (Id. at ¶3.) Next, Miner was arrested in the State of Florida, which precipitated another parole revocation procedure in New York. (Id.)

As a shock graduate, once Miner violated the conditions of his parole release, the controlling state regulations provided the Division of Parole with three options: (1) restore Miner to parole supervision; (2) restore Miner to the Willard Drug Treatment program("Willard"), or (3) reincarcerate him for at least a period of time equal to the minimum period of imprisonment imposed by the court. (Id. at ¶4.) Miner elected to enter Willard, though he contends that he did so under pressure from the attorney representing him at his final parole revocation hearing. (Id. at ¶5.)

After Miner agreed to enter Willard, but before he arrived there, he decided that the program "was religious in nature." (Id. at ¶6.) He then wrote letters to the Commissioner of the Division of Parole, his attorney, the Division of Parole's Peekskill Area Office, the Parole Appeals Unit, and the Office of the Attorney General, expressly stating that his letter was not an appeal, and requesting that his sentence "be modified to time served 90 days" because he objected to entering Willard due to its religious nature. (Id. at ¶6.) In addition, Miner also stated he did not need substance abuse treatment. (Id.)

This request was denied. (Id.) Miner then perfected an appeal from the revocation of parole, in which he raised no religious objections to Willard. (Id. at ¶7.) The appeal detailed Miner's argument that his parole was improperly revoked. (Id.) Since Miner had pleaded guilty at his final hearing, these arguments were waived, and the decision was affirmed. (Id. at ¶7.)

On November 23, 2004, Miner arrived at Willard. (Id. at ¶8.) On November 29, he received orientation. (Id.) Parole Officer Thomas O'Connor conducted the orientation and described the program requirement including the work crews, meetings with drug and alcohol treatment teams, education components, and physical training. (Id. at ¶9.) At the end of the orientation, parolees were asked to sign a memorandum of agreement, indicating their willingness to participate in the program. (Id. at ¶10.) Miner refused to sign the memorandum stating he was an atheist. (Id. at ¶11.) O'Connor explained he would be given twenty-four hours to reconsider his refusal, after which the parole violation process would commence. (Id.)

Thereafter, Miner again refused to sign the memorandum, and O'Connor recommended the issuance of a parole violation warrant. (Id.) Miner was charged with violating his conditions of release by refusing to enter Willard. ( ¶11.) On December 7, 2004, a preliminary hearing was held by Janice Smith, who was then a Senior Parole Officer, "to determine whether there [was] probable cause to believe" that Miner violated conditions of release. (Id. at ¶15.)

At the hearing, O'Connor testified and proffered as evidence the violation of release report that he prepared. (Id. at ¶16.) In addition, Miner presented evidence, in the form of legal argument and case law citations, to explain his rationale for refusing to sign into the Willard. (Id. at ¶18.) At the end of the preliminary hearing, Smith found probable cause to support the charge. (Id. at ¶18-19.)

On January 26, 2005, a final hearing was held before the Division of Parole's Administrative Law Judge. (Id. at ¶20.) On cross examination, Miner admitted that he was never directed to participate in any of the religious components of the program. (Id. at ¶21.) He also stated the materials he found objectionable were given to another parolee, and were never given to him. (Id.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the ALJ reserved decision and thereafter sustained the charge that Miner failed to enter Willard. (Id. at ¶22.)

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review - Motion for ...

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