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Bauder v. Fudge

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 19, 2019

DANIEL COLLINS BAUDER, Plaintiff,
v.
DELYNN FUDGE, In Her individual and Official Capacity as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Parole Board, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHON T. ERWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Daniel Collins Bauder, a state inmate appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1). United States District Judge David L. Russell referred the matter for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)-(C). The undersigned magistrate judge has reviewed the Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Based on that review, the Court concludes this action should be DISMISSED as time-barred. In the alternative, the case should be dismissed because Plaintiff has otherwise failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND AND CLAIMS ASSERTED

         Mr. Bauder is in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (DOC), serving a sentence imposed after his conviction for a violent crime he committed before July 1, 1998. His Complaint boils down to challenges to the procedures the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board (Board) uses to determine parole and clemency eligibility. Mr. Bauder bases his claims on his interpretation of the Oklahoma Truth in Sentencing Act. He theorizes that the Act created a liberty interest in parole and clemency that was not present in the former statute governing parole. Based on that premise, Mr. Bauder contends his rights to due process and equal protection in the parole process have been violated.

         In 1997, Oklahoma adopted the Truth in Sentencing Act[1] which established sentencing matrices for criminal violations. Had the whole of the Act gone into effect, Oklahoma state courts would have used the sentencing matrices to sentence persons convicted of crimes committed on or after July 1, 1998. But the Oklahoma Legislature repealed the sentencing matrices section of the Act before its effective date. Now, the matrices, though not codified in any law, are used, in part, for determining the initial parole docket dates for inmates convicted of violent crimes committed before July 1, 1998. Under the Act, initial parole docket dates for these inmates are set at the earlier of two dates: the date on which the inmate will have served one-third of the time to which he was actually sentenced, or the date on which the inmate would have served a percentage of the time he would have served, had the sentencing matrices gone into effect and been in effect when the inmate committed the crime for which he was convicted.[2] Okla. Stat. tit. 57, § 332.7(A).

         Mr. Bauder states he was assigned an initial docket date in July 2012, calculated on his having served one-third of the time to which he was actually sentenced. (ECF No. 1:7). Thereafter, Mr. Bauder was considered for parole at three-year intervals. He was never granted parole, however, and based upon the Board's two-step procedure applied to inmates convicted of violent crimes, he was never granted a parole hearing before he was denied parole.[3]

         II. SCREENING

         Federal law requires the Court to screen complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In fulfilling this obligation, the court considers, in part, the timeliness of Plaintiff's claims. This practice is consistent with “the long-standing rule that ‘[i]f the allegations . . . show that relief is barred by the applicable statutes of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.'” Vasquez Arroyo v. Starks, 589 F.3d 1091, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007)).

         Aside from the untimeliness of his Complaint, the substantive issues Mr. Bauder raises fail to state a due process or equal protection claim upon which relief may be granted. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) (pertaining to actions filed in forma pauperis).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Untimeliness of Mr. Bauder's Complaint

         A district court may sua sponte dismiss a § 1983 claim based on an affirmative defense-such as an expired statute of limitations-“when the defense is obvious from the face of the complaint and no further factual record is required to be developed.” Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Jackson v. Standifird, 463 Fed.Appx. 736, 737 (10th Cir. 2012) (“Dismissal of a claim as time-barred is treated as a dismissal for failure to state a claim.”).

         “State statutes of limitations applicable to general personal injury claims supply the limitations periods for § 1983 claims, but federal law governs the time of accrual of § 1983 claims.” Beck v. City of Muskogee Police Dep't, 195 F.3d 553, 557 (10th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). Oklahoma's two-year statute of limitations applies to Plaintiff's claims.

         A § 1983 claim accrues, and the applicable limitations period begins to run, “when the plaintiff knows or should know that his or her constitutional rights have been violated.” Smith v. City of Enid ex rel. Enid City Comm'n, 149 F.3d 1151, 1154 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). In this case, Mr. Bauder knew, or should have known, the facts he thinks support his cause of action-i.e., he was aware of the procedures the Board used at his initial parole docket-at least by July 2012. ...


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