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Hanahan v. Luther

*fn*: August 27, 1982.

ROBERT MICHAEL HANAHAN, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS M. LUTHER, WARDEN AND WILLIAM PILCHER, CHIEF PROBATION OFFICER, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 81-2176 -- Frank J. McGarr, Judge.

Pell, Cudahy, and Sprecher,*fn** Circuit Judges.

Author: Pell

PELL, Circuit Judge.

Robert Michael Hanahan petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging the revocation of his federal parole. The district court denied the petition and Hanahan appeals.

Hanahan was on federal parole after having been convicted of bank robbery and robbery of an Internal Revenue Service facility. The incident giving rise to the issuance of a parole violator warrant against Hanahan was his arrest, along with Paul Panczko, Robert Pullia, Gerald Thomaszek, and Robert Siegal, on December 3, 1979. The five men had met in the parking lot of Northwest Federal Savings Association in Chicago, Illinois. When police officers approached the group, Hanahan and the other four attempted to flee. Hanahan departed in the van he had been driving and led police on a high-speed chase. He was apprehended and the van was searched. The police officers found two handguns in a brown paper bag, a third handgun loose in the back of the van, rubber face masks, a crowbar, and a sledge hammer.

On December 14, 1979, the United States Parole Commission issued a parole violator warrant against Hanahan, charging him with violating four conditions of his parole: unauthorized association with known criminals, unauthorized possession of firearms, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, and conspiracy to commit savings and loan robbery. On February 15, 1980, a supplemental warrant was issued charging Hanahan with unauthorized association with a known felon and leaving the district without permission.

Following issuance of the first parole violator warrant, Hanahan's attorney requested that he be given access to police reports relating to the arrest and that subpoenas be issued for adverse and favorable witnesses. Hanahan's attorney filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the police reports, but the Parole Commission declined to release them because they might reveal the identity of a confidential informant or result in physical harm to another person.

The Parole Commission scheduled a preliminary hearing on the parole violator warrant for January 2, 1980. Hanahan was granted a postponement of the preliminary hearing in order to retain counsel. Following the postponement, the Commission notified Hanahan that the preliminary and final revocation hearings would be consolidated. Although Hanahan's attorney had given notice on January 9, 1980, that he would be engaged in a six-week trial beginning February 6, 1980, Hanahan's consolidated hearing was scheduled for February 19 to February 22. Hanahan requested and received a six to eight-week continuance. The consolidated hearing was then held on April 29, 1980, and Hanahan's parole was revoked.

Subsequent to the revocation decision, the Regional Commissioner of the Parole Commission noted that, although Hanahan had requested the presence of adverse witnesses at his hearing, none had been present. Accordingly, the Commission ruled that Hanahan was entitled to a new parole revocation hearing at which adverse witnesses would be present. A second hearing was held August 18, 1980, at which Hanahan, his counsel, and adverse witnesses were present. Hanahan had requested that the Commission subpoena Maxine Shipp, the owner of the van he was driving when arrested, along with the records of United Fruit Auction, Inc. This request was denied, however, and the Parole Commission again found that Hanahan had violated four conditions of his parole.

Hanahan appealed the revocation decision to the Regional Commissioner and to the Parole Commission's National Board of Appeals. The Appeals Board affirmed the revocation on only two grounds: unauthorized association with known criminals and unauthorized possession of firearms. Hanahan then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the district court, alleging a number of statutory and constitutional violations in the course of his parole revocation proceedings.*fn1 The district court denied the petition.

I

Hanahan argued below that the Parole Commission's decision that he had violated the conditions of his parole was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence. The district court rejected this argument, finding a rational basis for the Parole Commission's decision. Hanahan now contends that the district court erred in applying merely a "rational basis" standard of review. Instead, Hanahan contends, the district court should have independently determined whether the Commission's decision was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

We find that the district court applied the correct standard of review in this case. As we said in Luther v. Molina, 627 F.2d 71 (7th Cir. 1980), "it is apparent that Congress intended to give the Parole Commission great latitude in making decisions relative to [parole] revocation." Id. at 75. Although this wide discretion does not eliminate the possibility of habeas corpus relief, it does mean that district courts should grant such relief only in limited circumstances. Id. at 75-76. Thus, when a district court reviews a decision of the Parole Commission on a habeas corpus petition, "the inquiry is not whether the Board is supported by the preponderance of the evidence, or even by substantial evidence; the inquiry is only whether there is a rational basis in the record for the Board's conclusions embodied in its statement of reasons." Zannino v. Arnold, 531 F.2d 687, 691 (3d Cir. 1976). See DeFillo v. Fitzpatrick, 378 F.2d 85, 87 (2d Cir. 1967).

Under this standard of review the district court correctly held that "based on the totality of the evidence presented, . . . the decision reached by the Commission and affirmed by the Board of Appeals was rationally based and was not arbitrary or capricious." At the revocation hearing, Hanahan admitted having associated with Robert Pullia and with Paul Panczko, both known felons, on several occasions. Police officers testified at the hearing that Hanahan had rendezvoused with known felons in a savings and loan parking lot; that one of these felons had transferred firearms and tools to the van driven by Hanahan; that Hanahan had led the police on a high-speed chase in an attempt to escape; and that handguns, a crowbar, and masks had been found in the van. It is clear from these facts that the Commission had rational bases for concluding ...


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