Two state prisoners in Colorado filed a pro se civil complaint on September 12, 2005 in the 13th District Court, Logan County, Colorado. They alleged that the defendants (the state's governor and officials of the parole board and corrections department) improperly applied statutory parole guidelines and thereby violated the rights of the plaintiffs and a class of similarly-situated others who, between July 1, 1985, and July 1, 1993, had committed the crimes for which they were incarcerated. The prisoners' complaint seemed to express dissatisfaction with the shift in the state from an atmosphere where parole was more liberally granted to prisoners who had served at least half of their sentence to a more recent atmosphere in which parole was often denied to such prisoners for vague or conclusory reasons, even if the prisoner scored well on tests designed to indicate suitability for parole. Plaintiffs asserted that the state was abusing its discretion in arbitrarily denying parole without adequately considering mitigating factors. The plaintiffs sought appointment of counsel, class action status for the case, and a declaratory judgment answering numerous questions their complaint posed about state parole standards and processes.
Counsel for the state defendants moved on October 28, 2005, to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to review parole board decisions, that the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause imposed no procedural requirements on the state parole board, and that the plaintiffs had not stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. The pro se plaintiffs responded on November 8, 2005, that defense counsel misread their complaint. They said they were not asking the court to review any particular parole decision, but to ascertain and declare what criteria the state was using and whether those criteria met federal and state constitutional and statutory standards.
According to a subsequent pleading by the plaintiffs, on November 30, 2005, Judge Michael Singer granted the defense motion to dismiss, but allowed that the plaintiffs could amend their complaint. The requests for appointment of counsel and for class action certification were also denied at that time.
Still acting pro se, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on January 17, 2006, adding an express citation to 42 U.S.C § 1983 as a basis for the declaratory relief sought.
We have no documents from the court reflecting rulings in the case; however, a filing (captioned "Opening Brief," dated September 15, 2006) by the pro se plaintiffs in the Colorado Court of Appeals provides the plaintiffs' account of rulings leading to that filing. The plaintiffs' brief sets out that the defense filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on January 27, 2006, and that the court granted the motion on March 23, 2006. Plaintiffs filed their notice of appeal on April 12, 2006, followed by the opening brief. Continuing their earnest argument, the plaintiffs contended that the state had enacted a statute setting guidelines for parole determination and, having done so, the state's officials were not at liberty to disregard the statute and to ignore the statute's parole guidelines. Accepting that the state had wide discretion in parole decisions, the plaintiffs argued that the state had, effectively, adopted a no parole policy that violated plaintiffs' and their class' constitutional and statutory rights to have the state act upon the statutory standards rather than on an unstated policy. They sought reversal of the order dismissing their amended complaint. They also sought appointment of counsel and class action status.
On August 30, 2007, the Colorado Court of Appeals, Division III, affirmed the lower court's dismissal. 2007 WL 2446324.
The case is closed.Mike Fagan - 06/02/2008
Alex Colbert-Taylor - 07/05/2013