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Rashien Cofield v. John Lempke

July 15, 2011

RASHIEN COFIELD, PETITIONER,
v.
JOHN LEMPKE, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Rashien Cofield ("Cofield" or "Petitioner") brings this habeas corpus application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 alleging that he is in Respondent's custody in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Cofield was convicted in New York State Supreme Court, Rockland County, following a guilty plea to charges of first degree attempted robbery. He was sentenced to a determinate prison term of four years, plus five years of post-release supervision.

After Petitioner was released to parole supervision, he violated the terms of his parole on April 24, 2009, by failing to report to his parole officer, failing to enter and complete a residential program, changing his residence without notifying his parole officer, and failing to maintain contact with his parole officer or the New York State Division of Parole.

On September 17, 2009, Petitioner pleaded guilty to failing to report to his parole officer, and the administrative law judge ("the ALJ") imposed a 12-month time assessment with a referral to a drug treatment program at Willard Drug Treatment Center ("Willard"). The ALJ carefully explained the terms of the agreement to Cofield:

The offer[,] sir[,] in exchange for the plea you'll be sentenced to twelve months. You will also be referred to New York State Department of Corrections['s] ninety day alternative program. If you are accepted at the program and if you complete the program then the twelve months will convert to a revoke and restore. If you are not accepted at the program or you refuse the program or you are removed for whatever reason then the twelve months is still running and the twelve months goes back to 8/8 when the warrant was lodged against you.

Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") B at 3, 6.

Sixty-four days after his parole violation disposition was rendered, Petitioner was transferred to Downstate Correctional Facility on November 30, 2009. On December 8, 2009, 72 days after his parole violation disposition was rendered, he was accepted into Willard.

On December 15, 2009, while at Willard, Petitioner received an Inmate Misbehavior Report. On December 17, 2009, Petitioner was found guilty of creating a disturbance and refusing a direct order. Although Petitioner would have been permitted to "recycle" through the Willard program, he refused to do so. Consequently, on December 22, 2009, the Willard Evaluation Review Committee recommended that Petitioner be removed from the program because he refused to participate in it. On January 5, 2010, Cofield was transferred back to Five Points Correctional Facility where he currently is housed.

Cofield does not challenge the validity of his underlying conviction but rather argues that the New York State Department of Corrections ("DOCS") failure to timely transfer him to Willard violated his right to due process. He also contends that he had a due process right to be re-released to parole supervision after his time assessment concluded.

Respondent asserts that Petitioner's claims are unexhausted and not cognizable on habeas review. Because Cofield's petition does not present a federal constitutional question cognizable on habeas review and may be readily dismissed, the Court has exercised its discretion to bypass the exhaustion issue and deny the petition on the merits. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2) ("An application for a writ of habeas corpus may be denied on the merits, notwithstanding the failure of the applicant to exhaust the remedies available in the courts of the state."); Boddie v. New York State Div. of Parole, 285 F. Supp.2d 421, 428 (S.D.N.Y.2003) (finding that "thorny issue" of exhaustion in parole context "need not be addressed" since underlying habeas claims were without merit).

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

By Order dated May 12, 2010, the Court (Larimer, D.J.) asked Respondent to address whether the Western District of New York is "an appropriate and/or most convenient forum for this proceeding."

In his Answer, Respondent states that this Court has jurisdiction over this matter, and that the Western District is an appropriate venue for this proceeding. Because the issues raised by this petition are largely legal rather than factual, Respondent asserts, this Court is ...


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