719 F.2d 1199 (3rd Cir. 1983), 82-3593, Geraghty v. United States Parole Com'n

Docket Nº:82-3593.
Citation:719 F.2d 1199
Party Name:GERAGHTY, John M., individually and on behalf of a class, Villanti, Frank and Ford, Nicola, Additional Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION and Attorney General of United States and Superintendent, Federal Prison Camp, Montgomery, Pa. Appeal of John M. GERAGHTY.
Case Date:October 06, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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Page 1199

719 F.2d 1199 (3rd Cir. 1983)

GERAGHTY, John M., individually and on behalf of a class,

Villanti, Frank and Ford, Nicola, Additional Plaintiffs,

v.

UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION and Attorney General of

United States and Superintendent, Federal Prison

Camp, Montgomery, Pa.

Appeal of John M. GERAGHTY.

No. 82-3593.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

October 6, 1983

Page 1200

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Argued Aug. 11, 1983.

Rehearing Denied Oct. 28, 1983.

Page 1201

Kenneth N. Flaxman (argued), Chicago, Ill., for appellant.

David Dart Queen, U.S. Atty., Harrisburg, Pa., Frederick E. Martin, Asst. U.S. Atty., Lewisburg, Pa., Patrick J. Glynn (argued), Atty., U.S. Parole Com'n, Chevy Chase, Md., for appellees; Joseph A. Barry, General Counsel, U.S. Parole Com'n, Michael A. Stover, Atty., U.S. Parole Com'n, Washington, D.C., of counsel.

Before ALDISERT and WEIS, Circuit Judges, and RE, Chief Judge. [*]

OPINION

ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

This appeal presents three questions: whether the district court properly made certain class certification decisions; whether the federal parole guidelines violate the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act of 1976 (PCRA); and if not, whether construing the PCRA to authorize the guidelines renders the statute unconstitutional. The district court, following a remand from the United States Supreme Court, certified a plaintiff class consisting of federal prisoners in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and, after a bench trial, held both that the guidelines were valid under the PCRA and that interpreting the PCRA to authorize the guidelines did not offend the Constitution. Geraghty, for himself and the class, appeals both the district court's class action determination and its decision on the merits. We affirm.

I.

On September 15, 1976, plaintiff John M. Geraghty, a federal prisoner, initiated this class action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking declaratory and injunctive relief 1 after his requests for release on parole had been twice denied. 2 He challenged the legality of the federal parole guidelines, both on

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their face and as applied, and the constitutionality of the PCRA. The district court construed the case as one sounding in habeas corpus and transferred it to the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the situs of Geraghty's incarceration. The transferee district court agreed that it was a habeas corpus proceeding, denied class certification, and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants both as to the legality of the parole guidelines and the constitutionality of the statute under which they had been promulgated. Geraghty v. United States Parole Commission, 429 F.Supp. 737 (M.D.Pa.1977). Geraghty appealed, but before disposition, his sentence expired and he was released.

We subsequently reversed and remanded, Geraghty v. United States Parole Commission, 579 F.2d 238 (3d Cir.1978), holding: (1) the case should have been construed as an action for declaratory judgment rather than habeas corpus; (2) Geraghty's release did not render the appeal moot; and (3) the district court erred in failing to consider sua sponte the possibility of creating subclasses when it denied class certification. Then, to avoid "improvidently dissipat[ing] judicial effort," id. at 254, we went on to address the merits of Geraghty's substantive claims for the limited purpose of determining whether a trial should be had. We concluded that it should, stating:

If Geraghty's recapitulation of the function and genesis of the guidelines is supported by the evidence, there are important divergents between the Parole Commission's actions and the intent of Congress in enacting the statutory mandate.

Id. at 259.

The Commission petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari, which was granted. United States Parole Commission v. Geraghty, 440 U.S. 945, 99 S.Ct. 1420, 59 L.Ed.2d 632 (1979). The Court then vacated our decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. United States Parole Commission v. Geraghty, 445 U.S. 388, 100 S.Ct. 1202, 63 L.Ed.2d 479 (1980). It agreed that Geraghty's release from custody had not mooted the case, but rejected our suggestion that the district court should have considered sua sponte the possibility of creating subclasses when it denied class certification. It ruled that the burden of constructing subclasses should be on Geraghty rather than the district court. Finally, the Court declined to address the merits, stating:

although the Court of Appeals commented upon the merits for the sole purpose of avoiding waste of judicial resources, it did not reach a final conclusion on the validity of the guidelines. Rather, it held only that summary judgment was improper and remanded for further factual development. Given the interlocutory posture of the case before us, we must defer decision on the merits of respondent's case until after it is determined affirmatively that a class properly can be certified.

Id. at 408, 100 S.Ct. at 1215.

On remand, rather than certify the nationwide class suggested by Geraghty, the district court allowed the case to proceed as a class action consisting only of federal prisoners confined in the Middle District of Pennsylvania who are, or will become, eligible for parole release under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(a) 3 and who have been, or will be, denied parole and continued to the expiration

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of their sentences. It limited the case to a consideration of two issues advanced by Geraghty: the legality of the parole guidelines under the PCRA and the facial constitutionality of the statute. Geraghty v. United States Parole Commission, No. 76-1467 (M.D.Pa. Dec. 10, 1980), reprinted in app. at 27. In so doing, it refused to consider whether the Commission's failure to distinguish between 18 U.S.C. Secs. 4205(a) and 4205(b) 4 offenses was permissible, whether the parole guidelines were unlawful as applied, and whether applying the parole guidelines retroactively constitutes a violation of the ex post facto clause of the Constitution (an issue since addressed by this court in United States ex rel. Forman v. McCall, 709 F.2d 852 (3d Cir.1983)). After a bench trial, the district court again upheld both the legality of the parole guidelines under the PCRA and the constitutionality of the statute. Geraghty v. United States Parole Commission, 552 F.Supp. 276 (M.D.Pa.1982). Geraghty again appeals, contending that both the district court's class action determination and its decision on the merits were erroneous.

II.

Geraghty attacks the district court's class action determinations on three grounds, arguing that the court erred in: (1) certifying a class limited to prisoners confined in the Middle District of Pennsylvania; (2) refusing to certify the class on the question of the propriety of applying the same guidelines both to prisoners sentenced under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(a) and to those sentenced under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(b); and (3) refusing to certify the class on the question of the legality of parole guidelines as applied. Going to the merits, appellant's primary contention is that the parole guidelines offend the PCRA because they do not specifically require the Commission to consider either the prisoner's rehabilitation and institutional behavior or the length of his sentence. Presuming the guidelines are adjudged to be valid, however, he argues that such a construction of the PCRA renders it unconstitutional as an impermissible infringement of judicial and legislative functions. Although we will consider these arguments seriatim, a short description of the PCRA and the guidelines will place the contentions in proper perspective.

III.

A.

In 1976, Congress enacted the Parole Commission and Reorganization Act, 18 U.S.C. Secs. 4201-4218. The statute created the United States Parole Commission as successor to the United States Board of Parole, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4202, and empowered it to make parole release decisions for eligible federal prisoners, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4203(b). The PCRA also made it the Commission's responsibility to promulgate guidelines to govern the exercise of that power. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4203(a)(1).

In making a parole release decision under the statute, the Commission first must find that the prisoner is eligible for release. Eligibility is controlled by the nature of the sentence imposed by the sentencing judge. If the sentencing judge imposes a definite term sentence, according to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(a), the prisoner is usually ineligible for release on parole until after he has served one-third of his sentence. If the sentencing judge fixes a minimum term of incarceration, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(b)(1) governs,

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and the prisoner becomes eligible for parole at the expiration of that term. But if the judge fixes a maximum sentence to be served, he may grant the Commission carte blanche authority to release the prisoner at any time under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4205(b)(2).

Presuming the prisoner is eligible for parole release, the PCRA directs the Commission to determine whether that release should be granted. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 4206(a) dictates that a prisoner is to be released pursuant to the Commission's guidelines, if

[he] has substantially observed the rules of the institution ... to which he has been confined, and if the Commission, upon consideration of the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the prisoner, determines:

(1) that release would not depreciate the seriousness of his offense or promote disrespect for the law; and

(2) that release would not jeopardize the public welfare.

Only for good cause may the Commission depart from the guidelines in granting or...

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