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Griffin v. N.H. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

September 21, 2017

John R. Griffin, Jr.
v.
N.H. Department of Corrections and Ashlyn St. Germain

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Andrea K. Johnstone United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the court is plaintiff John R. Griffin, Jr.'s complaint (Doc. No. 1) asserting claims against the New Hampshire Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and Ashlyn St. Germain, Executive Assistant to the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board (“APB”). Also pending is Griffin's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 6), filed before defendants have appeared.

         Background

         In June 2016, Griffin's parole from an underlying state sentence was revoked, and Griffin was incarcerated at the New Hampshire State Prison (“NHSP”) after the revocation. In November 2016, Griffin appeared before the APB and was approved for reparole, subject to certain conditions. Documents in the record indicate that in November 2016, the APB authorized Griffin to be released on parole on the conditions that he have an approved housing plan, and remain free of disciplinary infractions for a period of time. See St. Germain, Apr. 28, 2017 Response to Apr. 25, 2017 Inmate Request Slip (“IRS”) (Doc. No. 1, at 9); St. Germain, Apr. 7, 2017 Response to Apr. 4, 2017 IRS (Doc. No. 1, at 17).

         On March 28, 2017, Griffin submitted an IRS to the APB, requesting a parole rehearing in May 2017, six months after the November 2016 hearing. See Griffin, Mar. 28, 2017 IRS (“March 28 IRS”) (Doc. No. 1, at 19). Griffin asserted in the IRS that although he had been paroled, subject to conditions, the condition that his release be delayed until he had an “approved housing plan” discriminated against him because of his inability to pay for housing. Id. He further asserted that the underlying June 2016 revocation of his parole (which preceded the November 2016 conditional re-parole decision), in his view, was obtained in violation of his federal rights. St. Germain, on behalf of the APB Office, responded that she wanted Griffin to tell her what the goal of a new hearing would be, since he had already been granted parole and “another hearing is not going to do anything” for his lack of housing. St. Germain, Mar. 31, 2017 Response (“March 31 response”) to March 28 IRS (Doc. No. 1, at 19).

         In April 2017, Griffin submitted multiple requests for a new APB hearing, stating that he intended to seek reconsideration of the APB's June 2016 revocation of his parole, because he believed the revocation was obtained in violation of his federal rights, see Apr. 4, 2017 IRS (Doc. No. 1, at 17); that he was suing state officers for damages relating to the June 2016 parole revocation, see Apr. 9, 2017 IRS (Doc. No. 1, at 11); and that he was entitled to a six-month statutory review hearing before the APB, see Apr. 25, 2017 IRS (Doc. No. 1, at 9). St. Germain, on behalf of the APB, responded by stating that the courts would evaluate his claims regarding the June 2016 revocation; and that the six-month statutory review procedure under N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. (“RSA”) § 651-A:19, IV, was designed for inmates who remained subject to an extended term of incarceration for a parole violation, while he, in contrast, had already been approved for release on parole, subject to conditions, in November 2016.

         Griffin filed a complaint in this case asserting that the decision to deny him a hearing violated his rights under RSA § 651-A:19, VI; and also violated his rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Griffin further asserts that he was denied a hearing in May 2017 in retaliation for his exercise of First Amendment rights, in suing DOC parole officers in a separate case. Citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Griffin seeks damages and an APB hearing. Griffin moved for summary judgment on his claims, before this court completed its preliminary review of his claims. See Doc. No. 6.

         Discussion

         I. Preliminary Review

         A. Standard

         The magistrate judge in this court conducts a preliminary review of prisoner complaints filed in forma pauperis. See LR 4.3(d)(1). The magistrate judge may recommend to the district judge that claims be dismissed if, among other things, the court lacks jurisdiction, a defendant is immune from the relief sought, or the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A(b)(1); LR 4.3(d)(1)(A). In conducting its preliminary review, the court construes pro se complaints liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief.'” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).

         B. Eleventh Amendment

         Griffin names a state agency, the DOC, as a defendant to his claims for injunctive relief. “A state's immunity under the Eleventh Amendment applies whether a private plaintiff's suit is for monetary damages or some other type of relief.” New Hampshire v. Ramsey, 366 F.3d 1, 14 (1st Cir. 2004). Griffin's claims against the DOC for damages and injunctive relief should be dismissed as barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

         C. First ...


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