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United States District Court, Northern District of California

May 12, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William Alsup, United States District Judge


The court has dismissed this prisoner in forma pauperis compliant. A judgment of dismissal without prejudice is entered in favor of defendants. Plaintiff shall take nothing by way of his complaint.


Plaintiff, an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison, has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.


A. Standard of Review

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In its review the court must identify any cognizable claims, and dismiss any claims which are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. at 1915A(b)(1), (2).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two essential elements: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

B. Legal Claims

Plaintiff contends that defendants "set him up" for a fight with another inmate. He was found to have violated a disciplinary rule by fighting, and among the sanctions he received was a loss of ninety days of good time credits. The relief he requests includes expungement of the disciplinary reports.

The United States Supreme Court has held that to recover damages for an allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus. Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-487 (1994). A claim for damages arising from a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Id.

Heck has been applied beyond cases which involve a challenge to the fact of conviction or to the sentence as imposed by a court. For instance, it applies to disciplinary decisions that involve a loss of good time credits, as is the case here. See Sheldon v. Hundley, 83 F.3d 231, 233 (8th Cir. 1996). Although plaintiff does not challenge the disciplinary decisions directly, he does contend that he was an innocent party who was "set up" by prisoner authorities. That allegation is contrary to the conclusion at the disciplinary hearing that he was guilty of a rule violation. Therefore, the length of his confinement would necessarily be implicated if he is successful here. The Court concludes that the Heck doctrine applies to bar claims such as this.

Claims barred by Heck may be dismissed sua sponte without prejudice. Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 585 (9th Cir. 1995). That will be done here


For the foregoing reasons plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED without prejudice to reasserting them if a cause of action ever accrues.*fn1 The clerk shall close the file.


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