United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
CARLOS KING, THADDEUS KAROW, JAMES PRICE, CRAIG ALAN SUSSEK, and VICTORIANO HEREDIA, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
STEVEN LANDREMAN, Acting Chairperson and Commissioner of the Wisconsin Parole Commission; DANIELLE LACOST, Commissioner of the Wisconsin Parole Commission; DOUGLAS DRANKIEWICZ, Commissioner of the Wisconsin Parole Commission, KEVIN CARR, Secretary-Designee of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections; and MARK HEISE, Director of the Bureau of Classification and Movement, in their official capacities, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
Carlos King, Thaddeus Karow, James Price, Craig Alan Sussek,
and Victoriano Heredia have filed a proposed class action on
behalf of themselves and other similarly situated Wisconsin
prisoners who committed crimes as juveniles and were
sentenced to life in prison before 2000. Plaintiffs allege
that they have all reached their parole eligibility date, but
state officials have denied them a meaningful opportunity to
obtain release, in violation of their right to due process
under the Fourteenth Amendment, their right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, and
their right to a jury trial under the Sixth Amendment.
Plaintiffs allege that defendants are Wisconsin officials who
have input into parole decisions and procedures.
plaintiffs are prisoners, the court must screen the complaint
to determine whether it states a claim upon which relief may
be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The court
will allow plaintiffs to proceed on claims under the Eighth
Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. But plaintiffs must more
fully explain the basis for their claim under the Sixth
threshold matter, it does not appear that plaintiffs'
claims are barred by the rule in Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477, 481 (1994), which prohibits prisoners from
challenging the validity of their confinement in the context
of a federal civil action. In this case, plaintiffs are not
seeking release as a remedy. And a ruling in their favor
would not necessarily imply that their confinement is
invalid. Rather, plaintiffs are seeking to be reevaluated for
parole consideration under different criteria, which is not
barred by Heck. See Wilkinson v. Dotson,
544 U.S. 74, 76 (2005) (challenge to parole procedures may be
brought in federal civil rights action).
Eighth Amendment claim relies on Montgomery v.
Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016), Miller v.
Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Graham v.
Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), which, taken together, hold
that it is cruel and unusual under most circumstances to
impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole on those who were under the age of 18
at the time they committed their crimes. Plaintiffs cite the
statement in Graham that the state must provide
“some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on
demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation, ” 560 U.S. at
75, and they allege that defendants have failed to provide
that meaningful opportunity by failing to consider the
factors required by the Supreme Court. That is sufficient to
state a claim under the Eighth Amendment.
due process claim relies on the same case law. Although the
Supreme Court has held that the Due Process Clause does not
apply to discretionary parole decisions, e.g.,
Board of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 375 (1987);
Greenholtz v. Inmates of Nebraska Penal &
Corr. Complex, 442 U.S. 1, 11 (1979), plaintiffs
contend that the Supreme Court has narrowed defendants'
discretion by requiring them to provide a meaningful
opportunity for plaintiffs to obtain release if they have
demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation. Other courts have
accepted that contention. E.g., Brown v.
Precythe, No. 17-cv-4082-NKL, 2017 WL 4980872, at *12
(W.D. Mo. Oct. 31, 2017). Because plaintiffs allege that
Wisconsin's procedures do not provide plaintiffs a
meaningful opportunity to make the necessary showing, the
court concludes that plaintiffs have stated a plausible claim
under the Due Process Clause.
claim under the Sixth Amendment relies on a line of cases
beginning with Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466,
490 (2000). Those cases stand for the proposition that
“[t]he Sixth Amendment reserves to juries the
determination of any fact, other than the fact of a prior
conviction, that increases a criminal defendant's maximum
potential sentence.” South Union Co. v. United
States, 567 U.S. 343, 346 (2012). Plaintiffs allege that
defendants have denied them parole based on facts about their
crimes that were not found by a jury or established by a
guilty plea. But all of the cases plaintiffs cite are
challenges to a prisoner's sentence, not to a parole
decision. Courts considering similar challenges to parole
decisions have rejected the challenges on the ground that the
denial of parole before a prisoner has served his full term
is not an increase in the prisoner's maximum sentence;
the right to a jury trial does not apply to parole
determinations; and there is no authority for extending
Apprendi to the parole context. See Genniro v.
Salazar, No. SA CV 08-543JVS (E), 2008 WL 4962861, at *9
(C.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2008) (collecting cases). See also
Villareal v. Swarthout, No. CIV S-11-2499 GEB, 2011 WL
5104472, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2011). Accordingly, the
court will direct plaintiffs to show cause why their claim
under the Sixth Amendment should not be dismissed for failure
to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Plaintiffs are GRANTED leave to proceed on the following
claims: (1) defendants have failed to provide plaintiffs a
meaningful opportunity for release, in violation of the
Eighth Amendment; and (2) defendants' procedures for
making parole decisions are not sufficient to give plaintiffs
a meaningful opportunity to obtain release, in violation of
the Due Process Clause.
Plaintiffs may have until June 18, 2019, to show cause why
their claim under the Sixth Amendment should not be dismissed
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
court will defer service until it makes a decision on whether
plaintiffs may ...