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U.S. Magistrate Rules New York Parole Policy Unconstitutional

by Derek Gilna

In a U.S. Magistrate's report to U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of N.Y., the New York State Division of Parole's (DOP) policy of computing parole violators' misdemeanor sentences was found to be unconstitutional.
Prisoner Timothy Batthany and Terrence Sudler had sued the DOP for their policy of giving misdemeanor parole violators credit for concurrent sentences if, and only if "the inmate proved that the sentencing judge imposed concurrent sentences; otherwise, DOP assumes the sentences are consecutive." Both prisoners had sought class action status for others similarly situated, but the judge granted DOP's motion for summary judgment, funding that the "right was not clearly established before (and therefore) defendants are entitled to qualified immunity."
The judge also stated the following: "The court is hopeful that as a result of this decision, DOP will change its policy ... [and] take the necessary steps to coordinate with the City and other state actors so that DOP systematically will be provided with the necessary information to determine when sentencing judges impose concurrent sentences.
Because of DOP policy, Sudler was released from custody approximately six months later than he would have had his judge's sentencing order been followed, and Batthany served five weeks longer than his sentencing order called for.
DOP's policy manual had provided that DOP "employees assume new misdemeanor sentences are consecutive for prior sentences unless documentation establishes otherwise." Language requiring the BOP to contact the sentencing courts to verify this was removed from DOP's manual because "it was deemed too burdensome for DOP to obtain this information."
The court, in the decision accepting defendants' defense of qualified immunity, stated that although DOP's actions were unconstitutional, "a reasonable state official could have concluded that requiring (a prisoner) to demonstrate the concurrent nature of his local sentence before awarding parole jail time credit for the time served in local custody was not unlawful."
As a result of the report and subsequent decision, the case was dismissed, and leave for class certification denied. See: Sudler v. Hain, et al., 08 Civ 11389; and Batthany v. Hain, et. al, 09 Civ 6510,2010 WL 4273277 (S.D. N.Y., 2010).

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Related legal cases

Botthany v. Hain

Sudler v. Hain