United States District Court, N.D. California
November 14, 2005.
JOSEPH LEE ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
PUBLIC DEFENDER OF LAKE COUNTY, et al, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEFFREY WHITE, District Judge
ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND DENYING LEAVE TO
PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
Plaintiff, currently incarcerated in the Hill Road County
Facility in Lakeport, California, has filed a pro se civil rights
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks leave to
proceed in forma pauperis (docket nos. 2, 4). This order
dismisses the petition and DENIES leave to proceed in forma
pauperis as moot (docket nos. 2, 4).
Plaintiff's complaint, though largely incomprehensible, appears
to challenge Plaintiff's detention as a result of being found
incompetent in a criminal proceeding. Plaintiff has attached
documents from Lake County Superior Court with a criminal case
number. Plaintiff asserts that his attorney, as well as the
police and other unknown individuals withheld information from
him. In his complaint, Plaintiff seeks release from custody.
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. See 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. See id. at
1915A(b)(1),(2). Pro se pleadings must be liberally construed.
See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege two essential elements: (1) that a violation of 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. See West v. Atkins,
487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
B. Legal Claim
In this case, Plaintiff has improperly filed his claim as a
civil rights action. Traditionally, challenges to prison
conditions have been cognizable only via § 1983, while challenges
implicating the fact or duration of confinement must be brought
through a habeas petition. Docken v. Chase, 393 F.3d 1024, 1026
(9th Cir. 2004).
Any claim by a prisoner attacking the validity or duration of
his confinement must be brought under the habeas sections of
Title 28 of the United States Code. Calderon v. Ashmus,
523 U.S. 740, 747 (1998); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500
(1973). A prisoner must bring a habeas petition if the nature of
his claim is such that it would necessarily imply the invalidity
of his conviction or continuing confinement. Butterfield v.
Bail, 120 F.3d 1023, 1024 (9th Cir. 1997) (§ 1983 claim).
A district court may construe a habeas petition by a prisoner
attacking the conditions of his confinement as a civil rights
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wilwording v. Swenson,
404 U.S. 249, 251 (1971). The opposite is not true, however: a civil
rights complaint seeking habeas relief should be dismissed
without prejudice to bringing it as a petition for writ of habeas
corpus. Trimble v. City of Santa Rosa, 49 F.3d 583, 586 (9th Cir. 1995).
In this case, Plaintiff's claims necessarily imply the
invalidity of his continuing confinement. As such, they are
DISMISSED without prejudice.
Based on the foregoing, leave to proceed in forma pauperis is
DENIED as moot (docket nos. 2, 4). The Clerk of Court shall close
the file and enter judgment.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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