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Case: Cheek v. Massachusetts Parole Board

SJ-2021-0430 | Massachusetts state supreme court

Filed Date: Nov. 29, 2021

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

In 2021, ten people on parole sued the Massachusetts Parole Board, alleging that the board violated state law by denying termination of parole in virtually all cases. As a result, people were arbitrarily kept on parole for years or, in some cases, decades. Plaintiffs filed their complaint in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County and were represented by Prison Legal Services and Swomley & Tennen, LLP. In 1955, Massachusetts passed GL c 127 § 130A, allowing the state to terminate an indiv…

In 2021, ten people on parole sued the Massachusetts Parole Board, alleging that the board violated state law by denying termination of parole in virtually all cases. As a result, people were arbitrarily kept on parole for years or, in some cases, decades. Plaintiffs filed their complaint in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County and were represented by Prison Legal Services and Swomley & Tennen, LLP.

In 1955, Massachusetts passed GL c 127 § 130A, allowing the state to terminate an individual's parole when it is in the public interest. Plaintiffs alleged that the State refused to grant the relief available under this law. The complaint claimed that the state's application of this law violated the law itself as well as Massachusetts' Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and it sought declaratory relief to that effect. Plaintiffs also sought equitable relief and mandamus, requesting the court to force the Board to properly enforce the statute.

The state passed policy 120 PAR 552 to govern the application of this law (though plaintiffs allege that this law was passed in violation of the APA). The policy mandates several pre-conditions to termination. Two such pre-conditions include: (1) the petitioner must be on "reduced supervision"; and (2) a parole officer and their supervisor must approve the petition. These two pre-conditions, however, have barred termination from many petitioners according to plaintiffs. For example, many petitioners are ineligible for reduced supervision. Besides this group, no one is eligible for reduced supervision until they are on standard supervision. Indeed, several plaintiffs who were eligible for reduced supervision still had not reached it after decades on parole. Also, plaintiffs alleged that the policy used parole officers to block "implementation of the statute by arbitrarily failing to submit petitions" to their supervisors.

This case is on-going as of March 27, 2022.

Summary Authors

Jordan Katz (3/27/2022)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

SJ-2021-0430

Petition and Complaint for Declaratory and Equitable Relief

Massachusetts state trial court

Nov. 29, 2021

Nov. 29, 2021

Complaint

Docket

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Criminal Justice (Other)

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 29, 2021

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Ten individuals on parole in Massachusetts or on supervision out of state but under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

Prisoners' Legal Services of Massachusetts

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Massachusett's Parole Board, State

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

State law

Availably Documents:

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

General:

Parole grant/revocation