Graziano v. Pataki, No. 11-116 (2d Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of themselves and other New York State prisoners convicted of violent felonies, alleging that they were denied parole as a result of an “unwritten policy” to deny parole to violent felons, and that this unofficial policy violates the Due Process, Equal Protection Clause, and Ex Post Facto Clauses. The district court dismissed. The Second Circuit affirmed. To state a claim for violation of due process rights, plaintiffs would have to allege that they were denied parole based on an “inappropriate consideration of a protected classification or an irrational distinction.” They did not do so. Equal protection is not a license for courts to judge the wisdom, fairness, or logic of legislative choices, and prisoners either in the aggregate or specified by offense are not a suspect class. The rational basis for a distinction in parole determinations is preventing early release of potentially violent inmates who may pose a greater danger to others. The Ex Post Facto Clause does not apply to guidelines that do not create mandatory rules for release but are promulgated simply to guide the parole board in the exercise of its discretion.