New opinions–DOC can’t be sued for erroneous denial of half-way-house transfer, plus a criminal-sentencing affirmance with a dissent

Two published decisions today.

First up is the sad case of Darryl Powell. Powell was serving a prison sentence and was due to be transferred to a community correctional center (a half-way house). But DOC made an error, so instead Powell was stuck in prison an extra 17 months. Powell sued under 1983, and the district court dismissed. On appeal, CA3 affirmed. Although the court “sympathize[d] with Powell,” it held that he had no liberty interest in transfer from prison to a half-way house.  (The error also caused Powell serve an extra seven months on parole, but the court rejected Powell’s wrongful-parole claim based on its sua sponte conclusion that he sued the wrong employee.) Seems like a harsh result.

The case is Powell v. Weiss. Opinion by Hardiman, joined by Ambro and Greenaway. Arguing counsel were Brian Zeiger for Powell, and Laura Neal and Alan Robinson for the corrections employees.

Today’s other case involves a criminal sentencing issue. When a defendant violates the terms of her supervised release, the court must (given specified circumstances) revoke her release and impose a new prison sentence. Here, the court held that the general sentencing statute, 18 USC 3553, also governs such revocation sentences.

The case is US v. Thornhill. Opinion by Smith, joined by Hardiman; Rendell concurred that section 3553 applies, but dissented from the panel majority’s ruling that no remand was needed to allow the district court to apply the correct standard. Arguing counsel were Elisa Long for the defendant and Michael Ivory for the government.