Tarapchak v. Lackawanna Cnty.

Decision Date24 March 2016
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 15-2078
Citation173 F.Supp.3d 57
Parties Stephanie Tarapchak, et al v. Lackawanna County, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

Stephanie Tarapchak, Scranton, PA, pro se.

Joseph W. Pilchesky, Scranton, PA, pro se.

Harry T. Coleman, Law Office of Harry Coleman, Carbondale, PA, J. Timothy Hinton, Haggerty, McDonnell & O'Brien, David E. Heisler, Cipriani & Werner, P.C., Scranton, PA, Timothy P. Keating, Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, PA, Michael P. Daley, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, AOPC, Jeffrey B. McCarron, Swartz Campbell LLC, Philadelphia, PA, Sean P. McDonough, Dougherty, Leventhal & Price, L.L.P., Moosic, PA, for Lackawanna County, et al.


KEARNEY, District Judge

Arrested persons awaiting trial are entitled to due process whether they are detained in prison or released on bail. If the state has probable cause to believe a person violated terms of house arrest on bail, it can investigate and recommend charges for bail violations. We now face an apparent wrinkle where Lackawanna County allows its Director of House Arrest, accompanied by a corrections officer, to hold a prison hallway “hearing” to interrogate a person allegedly violating a house arrest condition without counsel. Following this hallway hearing, the Director then recommends a term of detention to a judicial officer pending trial. Pennsylvania Law requires a judicial hearing within seventy-two (72) hours of a re-arrest for a bail violation. As such, you would think the statutory judicial hearing, at the latest, should be held within seventy-two (72) hours of the House Arrest Director's prison hearing. When, as here, a person suspected of a bail violation is interrogated by the House Arrest Director and then served over 160 days in prison on the bail violation without a judicial hearing, something has gone wrong. Setting aside a wide variety of pro se prolix claims which lack merit against a vast conspiracy of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the warden and his lawyer, we find Plaintiff stated one Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against the House Arrest Director and Lackawanna County warranting discovery and we now await to find out what went wrong.

I. Relevant facts alleged in the second amended complaint.

Plaintiff Stephanie Tarapchak is imprisoned at the Lackawanna County Prison arising from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's criminal charges stemming from the operation of her medical practice.1 On January 2, 2014, the Commonwealth arrested Tarapchak and held her at the Lackawanna County Prison on $100,000 bail.2

Conduct in the Court of Common Pleas and County Prison.

On April 28, 2014, Defendant Lackawanna County Judge Geroulo reduced Tarapchak's bail to $25,000, of which she posted ten percent (10%).3 Judge Geroulo ordered Tarapchak be placed in the Lackawanna County House Arrest Program while out on bail.4 His Order warned [v]iolations of House Arrest regulations will result in termination from the programs and further result in re-incarceration in the Lackawanna County Prison and “if you fail to abide by all conditions set forth by the House Arrest Programs or fail to return to Official Detention, a Bench Warrant will be issued for your arrest and Escape Felony Charges will be filed.”5 The Order further provided it “will serve as a temporary Bench Warrant until Formal Charges for Escape are filed by the County District Attorney's Office.”6 Tarapchak remained in the House Arrest program from May 5, 20 14 to October 22, 2014.

On October 23, 2014, Tarapchak appeared at the House Arrest facility to explain why her house arrest monitoring equipment indicated she violated the conditions of the house arrest program the previous evening.7 Defendant Director of House Arrest Patrick Lynn (“Director Lynn”) remanded her to the Lackawanna County Prison.8

On October 24, 2014, Director Lynn, along with correctional officer Kelly, held a formal misconduct hearing, which Tarapchak alleges is a secret Lackawanna County procedure used to hold inmates without giving them a hearing on the bench warrant issued for their arrest.9 Tarapchak did not wish to take part in the hearing without her lawyer.10 Lynn then prepared a report recommending Tarapchak violated the terms of her house arrest and she remain incarcerated pending further action.11 On October 27, 2014, Lynn sent his recommendations to Judge Geroulo detailing Tarapchak's bail violation.12

On October 24, 2014, the Attorney General's office faxed a motion to revoke Tarapchak's bail to her criminal attorney Defendant Joseph Kalinowski, as well as Judge Geroulo.13 The court filed this motion on Tarapchak's criminal docket, of which we may take judicial notice, on October 30, 2014.14

Judge Geroulo scheduled a November 7, 2014 hearing on the Attorney General's motion to revoke bail.15 At the November 7, 2014 hearing, Tarapchak's Attorney Kalinowski said his client Tarapchak wanted to recuse Judge Geroulo.16 Judge Geroulo asked Attorney Kalinowski to file the motion and he recessed the hearing to a later date.17 Attorney Kalinowski did not file the motion but instead moved to withdraw as Tarapchak's defense counsel on January 16, 2015.18 We have no explanation as to why Attorney Kalinowski waited almost two months, while his client sat in jail, to file this motion. In the interim, Tarapchak remained in prison on the bail violation with her only hearing held by Defendant Lynn and a corrections officer without counsel.

On January 23, 2015, Judge Geroulo granted Attorney Kalinowski's motion to withdraw and further recused himself because Tarapchak sued the Lackawanna County Prison and the Prison Board, on which Judge Geroulo sits.19 Tarapchak remained in prison.

On February 4, 2015, Defendant Judge Michael Barrasse replaced Judge Geroulo as presiding judge in Tarapchak's criminal case while she remained in prison on Defendant Lynn's recommendation.20

Six weeks later, Judge Barrasse appointed Attorney Bernard Brown as Tarapchak's new defense counsel.21 Attorney Brown filed an omnibus pretrial motion, including a writ of habeas corpus . Judge Barrasse held a hearing on April 10, 2015 to discuss this omnibus pretrial motion.22 Tarapchak alleges Attorney Brown failed to include the fact she had not received a bench warrant hearing within seventy-two (72) hours of her re-arrest as required by Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 150(A)(5)(b), as a basis for her immediate release.23 She remained in jail on the bail violation without a hearing.

At the April 10, 2015 hearing, Judge Barrasse hear d argument on the omnibus pretrial motion and also addressed whether Tarapchak received a hearing under Pennsylvania Rule 150(A)(5)(b).24 Defendant Deputy Attorney General Joseph LaBar, the prosecuting attorney, admitted the court did not hold a hearing on Tarapchak's house arrest violations.25 Judge Barrasse asked Attorney Brown if Tarapchak is denying the house arrest violations and Attorney Brown stated he “talked to [his] client” and they were not going to deny the house arrest allegations.26 Judge Barrasse then told Tarapchak of her right to a hearing then and by admitting the violations she is waiving a right to the hearing.27 Tarapchak responded she understood.28 Judge Barrasse found her in violation of house arrest.29 No party addressed Tarapchak's stay in prison based on Director Lynn's recommendation following a prison hallway hearing.

On July 6, 2015, Plaintiff Joseph Pilchesky, purportedly acting as Tarapchak's “next friend” filed a civil petition for habeas corpus relief in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas.30 Judge Barrasse heard argument on the civil petition on August 6, 2015.31 Defendant Attorney Nicholas Kravitz defended Lackawanna County Prison Warden Robert McMillan, the named defendant in the civil habeas petition.32 Judge Barrasse heard argument and denied the civil petition as [a]ll those issues were addressed by this Court in the April 10, 2015 rulings.33 In addition, Judge Barrasse found Pilchesky's habeaspetition to be a “dilatory tactic” aimed at delaying Tarapchak's criminal trial.34

On September 15, 2015, Pilchesky, again as Tarapchak's purported “next friend”, moved to remove Attorney Brown as Tarapchak's appointed criminal counsel alleging “dishonest, unethical, and unprofessional conduct.”35 Judge Barrasse again held a hearing on the motion and ordered Pilchesky to submit a brief explaining how he had standing to act as Tarapchak's “next friend.”36 Later that same day, Pilchesky filed a Motion to Disqualify Judge Barrasse accusing him of conspiratorial acts.37 On September 21, 2015, the eve of Tarapchak's criminal trial, Judge Barrasse denied the motion to remove Attorney Brown as defense counsel.38 He further ruled Pilchesky did not have “next friend” standing in the state court, as we do today in the accompanying Order and Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.39

Tarapchak's criminal trial began a week later on September 22, 2015 with Defendant Judge John Braxton presiding over the trial.40 On October 6, 2015, a jury found Tarapchak guilty of eight criminal charges.41 Judge Braxton held Tarapchak in the Lackawanna County Prison based on the conviction while awaiting sentencing. On March 10, 2016, Judge Braxton sentenced Tarapchak on each guilty count.42 Tarapchak remains in Lackawanna County Prison.

Tarapchak seeks relief in this Court.

Tarapchak originally filed a federal civil rights complaint on March 31, 2015.43 On June 24, 2015, Tarapchak voluntarily dismissed the complaint under Rule 41(a)(l)(A)(i).44 On October 21, 2015, Tarapchak filed an “amended complaint” accompanied by a motion to correct the record.”45 This Court ordered the Clerk of Court to open a new civil action based on the amended complaint filed by Tarapchak.46

On October 27, 2015, the Clerk of this Court opened the new civil action and filed the original complaint.47 The original complaint, filed by Tarapchak and Pilchesky,...

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