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Vincent v. Yelich

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

June 4, 2013

SHAWN MICHAEL VINCENT, JIMMIE JOHNSON, SENECA ROBINSON, GARY ST. MARY, WALTER EADES, REGINALD JOHNSON, DONALD MCLEAN, JEFFREY PALMER, WAYNE B. WRIGHT, JR., SHAWN GOODMAN, DAVID WADDELL, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
BRUCE S. YELICH, Superintendent, Bare Hill Correctional Facility, in his official and unofficial capacity; BRIAN FISCHER, in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services; ANTHONY J. ANNUCCI, in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Executive Deputy Commissioner of and counsel to the New York State Department of Correctional Services; RICHARD deSIMONE, in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Associate Counsel in Charge of the Office of Sentencing Review of the New York State Department of Correctional Services; LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, JR., in his individual capacity; GLENN S. GOORD, in his individual capacity; HENRY LEMONS, JR., in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Division of Parole; GEORGE B. ALEXANDER, in his individual capacity; ROBERT DENNISON, in his individual capacity; BRION D. TRAVIS, in his individual capacity; and JOHN and JANE DOES 1-50, various training, supervisory and policymaking employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services or the New York Division of Parole, in their individual capacities, Defendants-Appellees. SEAN EARLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ANTHONY J. ANNUCCI, in his personal and official capacities as Executive Deputy Commissioner of and counsel to the New York State Department of Correctional Services; BRIAN FISCHER, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, in his official capacity and his unofficial capacity; RICHARD deSIMONE, in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Associate Counsel in Charge of the Office of Sentencing Review of the New York State Department of Correctional Services; LUCIEN J. LECLAIRE, JR., in his individual capacity; GLENN S. GOORD, in his individual capacity; HENRY LEMONS, JR., in his individual capacity and his official capacity as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the New York State Division of Parole; GEORGE B. ALEXANDER, in his individual capacity; ROBERT DENNISON, in his individual capacity; BRION D. TRAVIS, in his individual capacity; and JOHN and JANE DOES 1-50, various training, supervisory and policymaking employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services or the New York Division of Parole, in their individual capacities, Defendants-Appellees.

Argued: October 16, 2012.

Appeals challenging judgments of the United States District Courts for the Western District of New York and the Northern District of New York, respectively, dismissing, on grounds of qualified immunity, plaintiffs' complaints alleging, on the basis of Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir.), reh'g denied, 462 F.3d 147 (2d Cir. 2006), cert. denied, 551 U.S. 1159 (2007), that defendants' imposition and enforcement of post-release-from-prison conditions without a judicial order was unconstitutional. See Vincent v. Yelich, 812 F.Supp.2d 276 (W.D.N.Y. 2011); Earley v. Annucci, No. 08-cv-669, 2012 WL 264210 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 30, 2012).

K. WADE EATON, Rochester, New York (Matthew J. Fusco, Jon P. Getz, Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York, on the brief), for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

ZAINAB A. CHAUDHRY, Assistant Solicitor General, Albany, New York (Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General of the State of New York, Barbara D. Underwood, Solicitor General, Andrea Oser, Deputy Solicitor General, Albany, New York, on the brief), for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: KEARSE, KATZMANN, and PARKER, Circuit Judges.

KEARSE, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Shawn Michael Vincent and Jimmie Johnson et al., former New York State ("State") prisoners who brought separate actions in the district court and whose appeals have been consolidated in this Court, appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, David G. Larimer, Judge, dismissing Vincent's second amended complaint ("complaint") and Jimmie Johnson's amended complaint ("complaint") (collectively the "Vincent/JJohnson complaints") against officials and employees of the New York State Department of Correctional Services ("DOCS") and the New York State Division of Parole ("Parole Division" or "Division") (collectively "DOCS and Parole officials"). The Vincent/JJohnson complaints, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for damages and declaratory relief, alleged that defendants violated plaintiffs' due process rights as announced in Hill v. United States ex rel. Wampler, 298 U.S. 460 (1936) ("Wampler"), and described in Earley v. Murray, 451 F.3d 71 (2d Cir.) ("Earley I"), reh'g denied, 462 F.3d 147 (2d Cir. 2006) ("Earley II"), cert. denied, 551 U.S. 1159 (2007), by administratively imposing and enforcing conditions of supervision on plaintiffs following their release from prison, despite the absence of any order for such supervision by the courts that sentenced plaintiffs for their crimes. The district court granted defendants' motions to dismiss the Vincent/JJohnson complaints pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), ruling that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because the unconstitutionality of the administrative imposition of such supervision was not clear prior to Earley I, and State cases decided after Earley I made it unclear that administrative imposition of such conditions was unconstitutional. Plaintiff Sean Earley, whose appeal was heard in tandem with those of Vincent and Jimmie Johnson, appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Frederick J. Scullin, Jr., Judge, granting summary judgment dismissing, also on the basis of qualified immunity, Earley's second amended complaint ("complaint") asserting similar claims for damages against most of the same corrections and parole officials.

On appeal, plaintiffs contend principally that the defendant DOCS and Parole officials are not entitled to qualified immunity because Earley I determined that the rights asserted by plaintiffs had been sufficiently clearly established decades earlier by Wampler. For the reasons that follow, we conclude that Earley I, an appeal from the denial of habeas corpus, did not rule that those rights were clearly established by Wampler with respect to a defense of qualified immunity; but we conclude that Earley I itself, decided on June 9, 2006, did clearly establish the unconstitutionality of the administrative imposition or enforcement of postrelease conditions that were not judicially imposed. Accordingly, and for the reasons that follow, we vacate so much of the judgments of the district courts as dismissed claims that defendant Anthony J. Annucci, DOCS's Executive Deputy Commissioner and counsel, administratively imposed, enforced, or supervised employees who imposed or enforced, such conditions on any plaintiff after that date. We affirm the judgments to the extent that they dismissed plaintiffs' claims against the other defendants.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are persons who were convicted of various New York State crimes committed on or after September 1, 1998, were sentenced to prison terms that they served, and were released from prison at various times between 2002 and mid-2007. It appears to be undisputed as to each plaintiff that, either during his term of imprisonment or upon his release from prison, he was informed that he was subject to postrelease supervision ("PRS") conditions of which he had not been informed by the court and which were not stated in the written order of commitment. Most of the plaintiffs were reincarcerated following determinations that they had violated their PRS conditions. (See Part II.D. below.)

The named defendants in each of the three complaints (collectively the "Complaints") include five DOCS officials and four Parole Division officials. The defendant DOCS officials in addition to Annucci are identified as follows: Brian Fischer, Commissioner since January 1, 2007; Richard deSimone, Associate Counsel in Charge of the Office of Sentencing Review; Lucien J. Leclaire, Jr., former Acting Commissioner from August 30, 2006, to December 31, 2006; and Glenn S. Goord, former Commissioner from 1996 to August 30, 2006. The defendant Parole Division officials are identified as Henry Lemons, Jr., the Division's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer since February 9, 2009, and three defendants who formerly held those positions: George B.

Alexander from 2007 to 2009; Robert Dennison from 2003 to 2007; and Brion D. Travis from 1995 to 2003. The remaining named defendant, Bruce S. Yelich, as Superintendent of the Bare Hill Correctional Facility, is named only in the caption of the Vincent complaint and is nowhere mentioned in the body of the Complaints.

Although some of the defendants were originally sued in both their individual and official capacities, the official-capacity claims in the Vincent and Jimmie Johnson actions were withdrawn, leaving claims against them in those two actions only in their individual capacities.

A. Postrelease Supervision in New York

In 1998, the New York Legislature passed a sentencing reform act (or the "Act")--commonly known as "Jenna's Law"--which, inter alia, established "a scheme of determinate sentencing" for violent felony offenders, eliminated parole for all such offenders, and required that determinate terms of imprisonment be followed by periods of mandatory postrelease supervision. People v. Catu, 4 N.Y.3d 242, 244, 792 N.Y.S.2d 887, 888 (2005) ("Catu"). The section of the Act at issue here provided in pertinent part that

[e]ach determinate sentence also includes, as a part thereof, an additional period of post-release supervision. . . . [A] violation of any condition of supervision occurring at any time during such period of post-release supervision shall subject the defendant to a further period of imprisonment of at least six months and up to the balance of the remaining period of post-release supervision, not to exceed five years.

1998 N.Y. Laws Ch. 1, § 15 (codified at N.Y. Penal Law § 70.45[1] (McKinney 2004) (emphasis added)), amended by 2008 N.Y. Laws Ch. 141, § 3 (codified at N.Y. Penal Law § 70.45[1] (McKinney 2009) (requiring that the required PRS term be stated by the court when imposing sentence)); see also id. § 70.45[2] (McKinney 2004), amended by 2004 N.Y. Laws Ch. 738, § 35 (codified at N.Y. Penal Law § 70.45[2] (McKinney 2009) (providing, with certain exceptions, a maximum term of five years' PRS)). The Legislature intended "postrelease supervision [to be] a distinct but integral part of the determinate sentence, " Catu, 4 N.Y.3d at 244, 792 N.Y.S.2d at 888 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Following the 1998 effective date of Jenna's Law and until the revision of § 70.45[1] in 2008, some judges did not inform defendants who were pleading guilty that they would be subject to PRS, a failure that the New York Court of Appeals in Catu ruled unconstitutional, see id. at 245, 792 N.Y.S.2d at 888-89. And in some cases the defendants' commitment orders likewise did not mention PRS.

DOCS's position in the present actions is that its understanding during the relevant period was that PRS was imposed automatically by operation of the Act and did not need to be expressly imposed by a sentencing judge. (See, e.g., January 14, 2011 Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion To Dismiss Vincent's complaint at 2 n.3 ("DOCS' position [is] that it has not 'added' anything to plaintiff's sentence. . . . DOCS has simply enforced a consequence of the plaintiff's determinant [sic] sentence which is automatically effectuated pursuant to the Penal Law."); Defendants' brief in Vincent/JJohnson appeal at 5-7.) Thus, DOCS regularly noted periods of PRS in the records of prisoners who had not been expressly sentenced to such a term by the sentencing courts, but who nevertheless should have had such a term imposed under § 70.45's mandatory PRS provisions. (See generally Declaration of Anthony J. Annucci dated July 18, 2011 ("Annucci Decl."), ¶ 10, in support of summary judgment against Earley.)

B. Earley I and II

In 2000, following a plea of guilty, Earley was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Neither prior to the entry of his guilty plea nor at his sentencing was he informed that he was subject to a term of PRS, and his commitment order did not refer to PRS conditions. DOCS administratively added a five-year period of PRS to his sentence. As detailed in Part II.D. below, after his release from prison, Earley violated the terms of his PRS and was reincarcerated. Having challenged the PRS provision unsuccessfully in state administrative and judicial proceedings, Earley sought federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that the imposition of PRS administratively by DOCS violated his due process rights. Although the district court initially denied Earley's habeas petition, this Court in Earley I concluded, applying the standard required by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), that "clearly established Supreme Court precedent render[ed] the five-year PRS term added to Earley's sentence by DOCS invalid, " 451 F.3d at 76.

Earley I observed that "[s]eventy years ago, the Supreme Court established that the sentence imposed by the sentencing judge is controlling; it is this sentence that constitutes the court's judgment and authorizes the custody of a defendant." Id. at 74 (citing Wampler, 298 U.S. 460). We noted that Wampler differed from Earley's case, in that the condition imposed in Wampler was discretionary, whereas "state law required that Earley be sentenced to a PRS term." Id. (emphasis added). However, we noted that Wampler had

articulate[d] a broader holding: The judgment of the court establishes a defendant's sentence, and that sentence may not be increased by an administrator's amendment. Wampler [therefore] provides clearly established Supreme Court precedent supporting Earley's claim. See also Greene v. United States, 358 U.S. 326, 329 . . . (1959) (quoting Wampler's assertion that "the only sentence known to the law is the sentence or judgment entered upon the records of the court") . . . . The only cognizable sentence is the one imposed by the judge. Any alteration to that sentence, unless made by a judge in a subsequent proceeding, is of no effect.

Earley I, 451 F.3d at 75 (emphases added).

Noting that "[p]ost-release supervision, admitting of the possibility of revocation and additional jail time, is considered to be 'custody, '" id. (citing Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S. 236, 240-43 (1963) (parole satisfies the "in custody" requirement for habeas petitions)), we stated that

[t]he sentence imposed by the court on Earley was six years in prison. The judgment authorized the state to incarcerate him for six years and no more. Any addition to that sentence not imposed by the judge was unlawful.

Earley I, 451 F.3d at 75 (emphasis added). We concluded that "[t]he state court's determination that the addition to Earley's sentence by DOCS was permissible is therefore contrary to clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court." Id. at 76.

We rejected the State's contention that because PRS was mandated by statute it was "necessarily part of Earley's sentence by operation of law." Id. Noting that New York law provided procedures for correcting sentences that were invalid as a matter of law and that "[t]he state . . . could have moved to correct [Earley's] sentence through a judicial proceeding, in [his] presence, before a court of competent jurisdiction, " we stated that

when DOCS discovered the oversight made by Earley's sentencing judge, the proper course would have been to inform the state of the problem, not to modify the sentence unilaterally.

Earley I, 451 F.3d at 76. We thus remanded for the district court to grant Earley's habeas petition, if timely, because we "determined that New York's modification of Earley's sentence violate[d] clearly established federal law." Id. at 77.

In Earley II, we denied the State's petition for rehearing which argued that "New York law automatically includes a period of PRS in every determinate sentence, " 462 F.3d at 148, and that "New York courts regularly fail to inform defendants of mandatory PRS terms but consider them part of those defendants' sentence nonetheless, " id. at 150. We reiterated:

When the sentence as imposed by the sentencing judge is purportedly altered to reflect something other than the sentence imposed, the source of that alteration is immaterial. Whether it is DOCS administrators or the operation of New York law that works the alteration, the alteration is of no effect.

Id. at 149 (emphasis added).

The fact that New York law mandates a different sentence than the one imposed may render the sentence imposed unlawful, but it does not change it. The sentence imposed remains the sentence to be served unless and until it is lawfully modified.

Id. (emphasis added).

Whatever conceptualization respondent-appellee has about the function of New York Penal Law sections 70.00 and 70.45, they cannot operate to undermine protections contained in the Federal Constitution. And as Wampler requires the custodial terms of sentences to be explicitly imposed by a judge, any practice to the contrary is simply unconstitutional and cannot be upheld.

Id. at 150 (emphases added).

C. The Decisions of the District Courts in the Present Actions

The Vincent/JJohnson complaints alleged, on information and belief, that the DOCS defendants knew that plaintiffs had not been sentenced by the sentencing courts to PRS. (Vincent Complaint ¶ 38; Jimmie Johnson Complaint ¶ 47.) All of the Complaints alleged that the DOCS defendants unlawfully and unconstitutionally devised and promulgated a DOCS policy of administratively adding a five-year PRS period to prisoners' records even if the sentencing court had failed to mention PRS. (See, e.g., Vincent Complaint ¶ 41; Jimmie Johnson Complaint ¶ 50; Earley Complaint ¶ 39.) Plaintiffs alleged that the policy was maintained, supervised, and enforced by each of the defendants throughout their respective tenures as state officials. (Vincent Complaint ¶ 42; Jimmie Johnson Complaint ¶ 51; Earley Complaint ¶ 41.)

Plaintiffs alleged, on information and belief, that the Parole Division defendants likewise knew that plaintiffs had not been sentenced by the sentencing courts to PRS (see Vincent Complaint ¶ 43; Jimmie Johnson Complaint ¶ 52; Earley Complaint ¶ 42) and that those defendants "established and implemented a policy of treating" prisoners whose sentences did not include mention of PRS "as though they had been sentenced to a period of post release supervision by the sentencing court" (Vincent Complaint ¶ 44; Jimmie Johnson Complaint ¶ 53; Earley Complaint ¶ 43). They alleged that each of the Parole Division defendants enforced this policy during his ...


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